Pushing Up Lilies

Silent Killers: When Family Turns Toxic

Episode Summary

In this episode of Pushing Up Lilies, I delve into the chilling world of slow poisoning deaths carried out by family members. Join me as I unravel the harrowing tales of trust betrayed and lives snuffed out by those closest to the victims. I'll guide you through the unsettling patterns and psychological motivations behind these sinister acts. We'll explore real cases where family members became the unexpected harbingers of death, using poison as their weapon of choice. Tune in to uncover the dark secrets hidden within these tragic family dynamics.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 Hey, guys, I want to talk just a little bit about poisonings.

0:36 I know that we talked about that last week.

0:38 I was thinking at work the other day, like I haven't had really any.

0:43 Well, I've had poison.

0:44 Like I had a guy drink bleach one time, and he texted his mom and his sister and told them that he was going to kill himself by drinking bleach.

0:54 You know, we can tell because when someone is poisoned, they'll have some pulmonary edema, and they'll have the froth sometimes out of their nose and mouth.

1:02 Many times when I go on to death saying I can tell if there are drugs involved or some sort of poisonous substance.

1:11 And he did, he was very frothy and that is something that we see commonly in poisonings.

1:17 But, you know, a lot of people I'm sure have been poisoned and we don't even know it.

1:25 Like we don't even know to investigate that as an option because there have been no police reports from families saying that they think it's happening.

1:35 There have been no previous hospital visits with complaints of any symptoms that, you know, point to any kind of poisoning.

1:45 But I'm sure it's happened like you can bet that people have poisoned their family members and maybe the family members are sick with other medical issues, and we would never ever, ever know because honestly, a lot of people and I'm just going to say this out loud, I'm sure kind of slip through the cracks.

2:07 I mean, if they have a medical history and who knows if their family member is tired of taking care of them or they've been mean to them in the past, you know, they could easily poison them, and no one would be the wiser.

2:23 If you don't suspect it, then they don't know to test for it at autopsy.

2:29 A heavy metal screening is not something that they're going to do on everybody.

2:36 Honestly, if you have a medical history and you die at home and you have a doctor that you see regularly, we're not going to bring you into the medical examiner's office, you're not going to have an autopsy.

2:49 Now, I'm not trying to give you don't get any ideas, but I'm just saying, I know that this had to have happened multiple times.

2:57 I can almost guarantee you that I've taken death calls on people that have been poisoned and just absolutely had no idea that it had happened.

3:07 They probably slipped through the cracks, you know, I mean, as long as there's no recent life insurance policy and there's no suspicion, it just never really gets investigated.

3:19 And I mean, honestly, natural death, the police don't really investigate those.

3:23 I mean, if everything seems on the up and up family is normal just looks like a death at home.

3:29 You know, they're not really going to investigate.

3:32 I mean, unless there have been like a lot of previous domestic violence calls to the residents, you know, they would pay attention to things like that or A P S calls where Adult Protective Services has been involved because they suspect abuse or neglect, then, you know, a lot of those cases are never going to be investigated.

3:53 And so I can guarantee you, I've worked a poisoning death and just not known it because you can poison people with a lot of things over time.

4:02 And the highest risk like the victims that are at the highest risk are people that are terminally ill.

4:09 Many times they're bedridden and they're on hospice and they're not going to be able to get up and they're not going to be able to run or defend themselves in any way.

4:17 It may not even know also people that are mentally incapacitated, same difference, they're not really going to know drug addicts.

4:27 They're not going to know if they're just high from the drugs they're taking or if the issues that they're having are related to a poisoning, even the elderly and very young, I mean, young kids, you know, like it would be easy for mom or dad to say, hey, you know, he's been vomiting, he's had really bad diarrhea.

4:45 If there's no history of abuse, you know, they may end up ruling this death undetermined because they're not going to know to do like a heavy metal screening and the same in elderly, I mean, it's cruel.

4:58 It's cruel to think that anyone would purposely poison somebody, especially to me to do it slowly over time and just watch them become more and more ill until they eventually die is cruel.

5:12 It happens many times to unwanted spouses, lovers.

5:17 You know, that's another very high-risk group that, you know, runs the risk of being poisoned.

5:23 It's horrifying to think about the fact that somebody would be so evil that they would put something in your food or put something in your drink, basically, just watch you die slowly over time and sometimes even take you to the hospital and act like they care.

5:40 I mean, the offender is usually personally involved with the person and often times they are a caregiver, maybe they do it because they're tired of taking care of the person or maybe the person is just not nice to them.

5:53 So they're like, why am I doing this for them when they don't even care and they don't appreciate it.

5:59 And then it starts festering into a hatred and it's just sad to think about poisoners sometimes will assume the role of nursing the victim back to health.

6:14 They'll be poisoning somebody.

6:16 They'll have an episode of nausea or get really sick from it and then they'll end up going to the hospital, maybe even being admitted for a couple of days and then coming back home and then the person that actually poisoned them in the first place is acting like they love them and trying to nurse them back to health and you know, making protein shakes for them or whatever.

6:40 And the whole-time putting arsenic in them, I mean, it's so cruel to think about but you know, it happens probably like I said, more than we know many times the perpetrator or the offender loves to see their victims suffer, they love to see them sick.

7:03 Again, the perpetrators are oftentimes not always like we've talked in the past about nurses and doctors who kill their patients at hospitals and all.

7:11 But many, many times the perpetrators are employed in the medical field, and I don't know why this is, but that tends to be the truth.

7:22 The ideal poison that these people are going to use is going to be lethal in small amounts.

7:30 It's going to be odorless because I mean, if your victim can smell it, they're going to suspect something and probably not take it or not drink it.

7:38 It's going to be tasteless for the same reason.

7:41 You can't add it to a drink without them knowing.

7:44 Then your chances of getting caught are going to be less and less.

7:50 It's going to be difficult to detect all the way around and it's going to cause symptoms similar to a natural disease.

7:59 If someone poisoned someone with arsenic, for example, and they had nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

8:05 Well, you know, you must have a stomach bug.

8:07 right.

8:08 I mean, they're not going to be able to taste it.

8:10 They're not going to know that it's in their drink.

8:13 They can't detect it at all.

8:15 It's lethal in small amounts.

8:16 You can give it to them over long periods of time and they just get more and more sick until they eventually die.

8:23 But the good thing is that poisons are now easier to detect arsenic cyanide, thallium, strychnine atropine.

8:36 I mean, there are so many things now that we can detect easier in the blood system.

8:44 Now, red flags on a death scene are going to be a sudden death of maybe even a very young person, but we have sudden death a lot.

8:55 So again, like, as a death investigator now we may have someone with cancer.

9:00 Well, if they die suddenly, you know, that's not too crazy.

9:03 I mean, it happens, we're not going to go.

9:05 Oh, ok.

9:06 He has cancer, but he died suddenly.

9:07 I bet he was being poisoned.

9:09 I mean, it's just not something that comes to your mind.

9:12 In an everyday death investigation.

9:15 Sometimes again, you know, it's somebody that had recovered and then came home and died, which again, we see that normal in natural deaths too, especially if somebody has chronic disease, somebody that's isolated, you know, they're going to be more at risk because they don't pick up the phone and call a friend and say, hey, I feel bad.

9:36 You know, these people are going to be maybe just suffering at home by themselves.

9:41 Maybe they don't have a lot of friends.

9:43 They don't have a doctor that I have money to see a doctor, which we see a lot.

9:48 Unfortunately, arsenic poisoning though is the one I want to talk about today.

9:54 So arsenic poisoning is mostly caused by drinking contaminated water.

10:01 We're not going to know again, you can't taste it.

10:04 It's odorless.

10:06 A lot of us drink bottled water.

10:08 Now for this reason and a lot of those symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

10:15 You know, you may like, oh I got a stomach bug, you know, and it passes, and it gets better because you haven't been exposed.

10:23 And then all of a sudden you start drinking the water again and you get sick again.

10:27 Long term use of arsenic over time is going to cause some skin changes such as like darkening of the skin, dark spots and dark like skin lesions.

10:44 And I can say in my previous death investigation scenes, I have never noticed that on anyone and had it trigger any kind of a alarm in my head that something is going on.

10:58 But it's definitely something.

11:00 Again, one of those signs that as a death investigator we can look for at the scene.

11:06 Have they been nauseated?

11:08 Have they been vomiting?

11:09 Have they had diarrhea?

11:11 Is there a reason for it?

11:13 Do they have these skin lesions?

11:15 Does their skin look dark?

11:17 There are some medications that you can give people that you suspect may have been poisoned with arsenic.

11:22 But another option is bowel irrigation, which doesn't sound pleasant.

11:27 But hey, if I thought I'd been poisoned, like have at it.

11:31 The interesting thing is arsenic is a naturally occurring element in the environment.

11:37 It's present in like rocks, soil, water, air plants and animals.

11:43 They all contain some level of arsenic, which is kind of scary when you think about arsenic poisoning affects 100 and 40 million people worldwide.

11:56 And a lot of this, again, the main reason would be contaminated water, the contaminated drinking water symptoms that you might notice in cases like this are going to be again, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, a heart arrhythmia.

12:19 People having palpitations, those types of things decreased blood pressure, red, swollen skin, a garlic odor in someone's breath would be a good indication.

12:32 And sometimes you feel like there are like pins and needles poking in your fingers and toes.

12:40 Those are symptoms that you may hear, many, many times.



12:45 Ok, if I went on a death scene and I'm like, I always ask, especially if it's a sudden death that appears natural.

12:51 Have there been any recent complaints?

12:53 That's always one of my questions.

12:55 Most people say no, or some people may say he's been coughing for a couple of days, but, you know, he thought he just had a cold.

13:03 He wasn't really taking any medications.

13:05 You know, I hear that a lot.

13:06 Well, coughing is a symptom of arsenic poisoning.

13:10 Again.

13:11 We can't do autopsies on everybody, and we can't do heavy metal screening on everybody.

13:17 A lot of people who are having these symptoms may have been poisoned, whether on purpose or accidentally by drinking contaminated water.

13:27 And we're going to just assume it's a natural death because they have a medical history and they have one of this whole list of symptoms, you know, back in the day when the population wasn't what it is now, they probably did full autopsies on a lot more people.

13:46 Now, long term exposure of arsenic is going to cause skin pigmentation changes, weird warts and lesions, hard patches on hands and feet, white lines on your fingernails and we all get our nails done now.

14:04 So, you know what? When you go to the nail salon, look at your nails whenever they take your polish off before they repaint them, like make sure there's no white lines.

14:12 But that is one sign, persistent sore throat that won't go away and constant digestive issues.

14:20 Somebody who's always having problems with their stomach, always having stomach issues.

14:26 And it's not a bad idea.

14:28 If you are one of those people that when you go to your regular doctor visit, ask for a heavy metal screening.

14:35 I mean, nine times out of 10, if you're having symptoms of any kind of poisoning, it's something that your doctor can check for that will be covered by your insurance.

14:47 It's an easy test.

14:48 It's blood work or urine and it's not going to hurt anything.

14:53 I mean, it's probably nothing but if it's been constant and you can't figure out what it is, and you've had upper GI and you've had lower GI and you've had colonoscopies, and you can't get answers.

15:08 Just do that.

15:09 Heavy metal screening, the heavy metal test is going to check for cadmium arsenic, chromium, lead mercury, all of those things that you know, you could be exposed to.

15:21 If, say you work in the auto repair business.

15:27 If you're painting cars and you're exposed to paint that may have lead in it, then there's a possibility that you could have lead poisoning.

15:39 It's just something to think about.

15:41 Again, drinking contaminated water is the most frequent cause.

15:46 But because arsenic is naturally present in the ground, it can leach into the water supply.

15:55 If you don't have like a water purifier, some kind of filter on your faucet at home, if you do drink water out of the faucet.

16:05 Then I would recommend that I know that the cities are really good about testing.

16:10 And I'm not saying, oh my God, we need to all go out and buy water filters because we're being poisoned.

16:15 It's just something to think about.

16:17 You know, it's little things like that that we don't always consider when we're ill chicken rice, fruit juice and even some fish contains arsenic many times.

16:30 If you're going to have a heavy metal test, they recommend that you go a couple of days without eating fish prior to the test because some fish can make your arsenic levels higher in your bloodstream, but they can test it with fingernails, blood, urine and hair.

16:49 There are several different ways to check for the presence of arsenic or any of those other heavy metals that could be causing symptoms.

17:00 So let's talk a little bit about James Tolliver Craig, 45-year-old was arrested and accused of murdering his wife in Aurora, Colorado.

17:14 Now, James was a dentist and I believe that's how he met his wife, Angela was that she worked for him.

17:22 He had ordered multiple poisons and also used his computer to research how much to use actually went to the trouble to create a new Gmail account and research which poisons are undetectable in the bloodstream to try and find something to give Angela that would not even be able to be detected in blood work.

17:50 And he purchased a form of arsenic from Amazon.

17:56 Now, two days after the arsenic was delivered on March 4th, his wife Angela, who was 43 was admitted to the hospital with complaints of feeling funny, like her head feeling kind of funny, being dizzy and unable to focus.

18:15 Those were her first symptoms.

18:17 And they started again two days after he received this form of arsenic that he ordered on Amazon.

18:27 Angela was released on the sixth of March.

18:31 And Craig had ordered cardiac glycoside which is found in the poison plant oleander.

18:40 He ordered that and I, I don't know in what form, but he obviously was looking for ways to poison her and no one know about it except that, you know, these people don't realize that the police are actually going to look at your computer and see that you've done all these searches and they may look at your credit cards and see that you've made all these purchases and they're probably going to look at your Amazon account, but criminals don't think about that.

19:09 I mean, it's not that they don't care.

19:11 I think it's just that they're dumb.

19:12 And again, we love dumb criminals because they're easier to catch.

19:17 Now, I found this interesting, but when he ordered the cardiac glycoside, the shipment was intercepted by FedEx and not delivered.

19:28 Now, I have heard this before, and I need to look into it a little bit more.

19:32 But I did have a guy order a suicide kit on one of my death scenes, one time, the police tell me that he had ordered a suicide kit on Craigslist.

19:41 I believe it was eBay.

19:43 It was eBay, and it was intercepted.

19:47 I'm not sure why.

19:49 I mean, obviously suicide kit that says very clearly what you're planning on doing and they're trying to prevent that.

19:56 And so that package was intercepted, the cardiac glycoside, I'm guessing they assume that there's no need for a dentist to need that.

20:04 And so that package was intercepted by FedEx.

20:07 And I love to hear that some companies are paying attention to what people are ordering and why and intercepting those packages.

20:16 I thought that was interesting that FedEx intercepted that now on March 8th because he didn't get the oleander.

20:24 So he didn't have the cardiac glycoside on March 8th.

20:28 He ordered potassium cyanide.

20:31 Now that shipment was delayed and because it had not shown up at his office when it was supposed to, he told a coworker I'm expecting a package, but when it gets here, don't open it.

20:43 Well, it was accidentally opened by another employee who saw what it was and quickly, you know, kind of taped it back shut because it's like, oops, I don't think I was supposed to see that.

20:55 Now, Angela was admitted again on March 9th, and she was there until the 14th.

21:02 But when they discharged her on the 14th, she had to go back on the 15th, the very next day because she had a seizure and at that time, she required intubation, and she passed away on March 18th.

21:18 Now, this all happened in 2023 is not that long ago that Angela passed away at the time, Craig refused to allow the hospital to conduct an autopsy.

21:30 I find that interesting because at our office and again, I know all states are different.

21:36 I don't know how things are in Colorado.

21:38 But at our office, like you don't really have a choice, like you can ask for religious reasons or even personal reasons that the doctor not do an autopsy, but you can't just refuse an autopsy.

21:52 I mean, if you don't want one, our doctor can still do it.

21:56 But that is the doctor's discretion.

21:59 And again, our purpose is to find a cause and manner of death.

22:04 And it always looks suspicious to me if family does not want an autopsy, especially in a case like this where she's 43 years old, she's been sick.

22:16 Like why would a loving husband not want to know what's wrong with his wife?

22:21 Seems a little suspicious.

22:23 Again, I have no idea why he was allowed to refuse it.

22:27 Or maybe that's just something that they said, you know, he didn't want one.

22:31 The way the story goes is that Craig made Angela protein shakes regularly and she would complain of feeling drugged frequently, which was, you know, his whole plan.

22:45 But if she complained to him, like nothing is going to be done about it because it's like, yes, it's working.

22:52 But Craig was starting a new relationship with another woman who he flew to Denver while Angela was in the hospital.

23:02 Now, the interesting thing is his partner in the dental practice.

23:08 Ryan Redfern told the nurse at the hospital that Craig had ordered potassium cyanide.

23:16 Now these guys have been friends for 20 years.

23:19 They went to dental school together and Ryan stepped up and told him at the hospital, ok, this is something he ordered that we don't use at our office.

23:30 This is not something that should have been ordered for us.

23:34 But apparently Angela also had been wanting to leave Craig for years because they were having some financial issues, but they did have six beautiful Children.

23:45 Now he was charged with first degree murder and pled not guilty.

23:51 They did do an autopsy.

23:53 The autopsy did reveal arsenic poisoning.

23:56 They did the heavy metal screening and again, they had an indication to do it because Doctor Redfern stepped up and told them that he ordered the potassium cyanide.

24:06 And so they knew to check for this.

24:09 But otherwise, you know, had he not done that, then they might have done a full autopsy, they might have cut her and not found a darn thing and then her death would be undetermined.

24:19 Just think about that.

24:20 I mean, think about how many people again may have slipped through the cracks, the defense, you know, poor crack, like he's depressed and, you know, they argued that he ordered the potassium cyanide for himself that he had been depressed.

24:35 He was going to try to kill himself.

24:37 I mean, nice try.

24:39 But no, I mean, of course they're going to try to find an excuse for him ordering it because they're his defense.

24:46 Now, the girl he was dating met him at a dental conference and she was in the process of divorcing her husband.

24:55 She said that they spent some time at the conference texting and connecting.

25:00 But Craig also told her that he was in a divorce and that he and his wife weren't living together.

25:07 After the conference ended because she believed him to be, you know, soon single and as was she, you know, she continued to reach out to him.

25:17 But again, he did use his computer at the dental practice, created this new email and did all these online searches like how many grams of arsenic will kill a human and is arsenic detectable in autopsy.

25:29 The police are going to look at your computer, they're going to look at your phone.

25:33 It's not that easy to get away with murder Angela Craig's sister told investigators that several years earlier, Angela thought she'd been drugged by her husband.

25:44 It's just really hard to believe again that someone would do this to a family member that they loved and to watch her suffer.

25:54 The latest news on him is that his trial was set to begin this April, but it is now supposed to begin on August the eighth, one of their key witnesses apparently suffered a stroke earlier this year and can't testify.

26:13 I don't know who that is, but they're waiting for whoever that is to recover.

26:18 But Angela died on March 1st of 2023.

26:22 She also had tetrahydrozoline in her system, which is an ingredient commonly found in Visine.

26:30 So there's a good chance that he was putting that in her protein shakes as well as the arsenic.

26:37 It'll be real interesting in August to follow this trial and see what happens.

26:42 It's really going to be difficult for him to get off with murder in this case, I believe.

26:49 But so sad and, you know, it got me thinking when we were talking about poisonings last week that this probably happens a lot and we don't ever know it because we don't suspect it.

27:02 And again, some people are isolated from their family and their family is not even going to know that they've been sick.

27:08 You know, we may call him and they're like, oh, ok.

27:11 So and so died haven't talked to him in five years.

27:14 Don't know what's been going on with him.

27:16 It's easier to poison somebody that's kind of estranged from their family and somewhat isolated because they don't have anybody to complain to and no one really knows what's going on anyway.

27:31 I hope y'all have a wonderful week.

27:34 I actually reached out to Doctor Redfern to see if he would be interested in an interview.

27:38 I'm anxiously awaiting a response from him.

27:42 I know that many times when I reach out to people they're not interested and I'm really hoping that he'll kind of talk to me a little bit about it.

27:49 This is a fairly new case.

27:51 It hasn't gone to trial yet.

27:53 There may be a lot that he can't say, but just to visit with him for a minute would be amazing.

27:58 We'll see how that goes.

28:00 Be sure and reach out.

28:01 I've had a couple people reach out for stories.

28:04 So, so sorry, I haven't been able to get back with you.

28:07 This has been just a crazy, crazy week with my graduation and my granddaughter's birthday party.

28:13 So things are hopefully starting to slow down a little bit and I'm going to reach out to you and get those interviews done and I'm interested to see how those stories pan out.

28:24 Log on to our website again.

28:27 Email me if you have a story that you'd like for me to cover Julie @ pushinguplilies.com.

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28:34 We're adding some new items that's at pushing up lilies dot com and I hope y'all have a wonderful week.

28:41 Take care.

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