A California woman who was accused of posing as her ex-fiance’s pregnant wife and posting “rape fantasy” advertisements on Craigslist in her name was framed by the purported, prosecutors now say.
The shocking twist in an already bizarre case comes months after Michelle Hadley, 30, was arrested on felony charges including attempted forcible rape, stalking and first-degree burglary, and jailed on $1 million bail in July 2016.
Hadley, now called the victim by prosecutors, spent 88 days in jail before being released on her own recognizance as new information emerged.
And Angela Connell Diaz, the woman Anaheim Police and Orange County prosecutors originally believed to be the victim, is facing charges, including kidnapping, false imprisonment, perjury, forgery, grand theft and falsely reporting crimes to the police, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said January 8 in a press release.
Angela Diaz, once called an “innocent bystander” in the case by prosecutors, is married to Ian Diaz, a deputy with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, who had been engaged to Hadley.
Hadley was arrested on July 14 and the revolting allegations against her were laid out in a press release by the district attorney after she appeared in court several days later and was held on the high bail. The case made national and international headlines.
Prosecutors said the Craigslist posts included requests that Angela Diaz be raped even if she “screamed or resisted,” and Angela Diaz told police that one man had tried to attack her in her home, before she fought him off. It now appears that Angela Diaz made those accusations up, but full details of what led investigators to turn the tables on Diaz have not yet been made public.
Rackauckas, Anaheim Police, and Hadley’s attorney, Michael Guisti, announced the stunning charges against Diaz and exoneration of Hadley at a press conference Monday morning.
“It’s often said that true life is stranger than fiction,” Rackauckas said. “And the facts of this case make that statement spot on. When a person who has committed a crime gets arrested and charged, that’s a bad day. But when someone that’s innocent gets arrested and charged with a crime, that’s not just a bad day, that’s a nightmare. This is the tale of a woman who faced such a nightmare.”
Hadley, of Ontario, California, was been released on her own recognizance in October. The case against her was dropped January 9.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Diaz Claimed She Was Physically Attacked by a Man Responding to a Craigslist Ad, but Fought Him Off Before He Could Rape Her
Angela Diaz applied for a restraining order against Michelle Suzanne Hadley, her husband’s former fiancee, on June 6, claiming Hadley was harassing her, prosecutors said in their press release in July 2016.
The press release has since been deleted from the Orange County District Attorney’s website. It is now not clear if Diaz was actually being harassed by Hadley at the time.
Prosecutors accused Hadley of violating the restraining order from June 6 to July 13 by sending Diaz “numerous emails including threats against the life of Jane Doe and her unborn child and disparaging comments about the victim’s husband. Hadley is accused of routing the emails to the victim through different computers and servers in order to avoid detection by law enforcement,” the district attorney’s office said.
In court documents, Angela Diaz described the alleged harassment:
Ms Hadley has been emailing me for over one week, repeatedly threatening my life, my marriage, my safety, and slandering my husband. Ms Hadley has used over six different email addresses to contact me, despite a request to cease communication. I am now fearful of leaving my home, have had to delete my online presence, and am incredibly emotionally distressed. I am fearful of being ‘raped,’ ‘attacked,’ ‘killed.’ I have had to completely uproot my life, including missing work at a new job to quash this issue. he tone and tenor of these emails escalates and there seems no sign of stopping.
The emails came from a man named “Jason Ray” on Linkedin, and Angela Diaz replied to those emails accusing the sender of being Hadley, and also told police she believed Ray was Hadley.
The emails included several Biblical references:
There are legends that Adam had a wife before Eve who was named Lilith, but this is not found in the Bible. The legends vary significantly, but they all essentially agree that Lilith left Adam because she did not want to submit to him. According to the legends, Lilith was an evil, wicked woman who committed adultery with Satan and produced a race of evil creatures.
I hope you are scared of death tomorrow. Be prepared. Don’t sleep, be watchful of the Daughters of God. We will steal your child and we will watch as it dies. (He) is using you for everything. Don’t you see this? He is obsessed with me, I am his treasure princess, you are nothing. Watch your back tomorrow.
Police also began investigating claims that Hadley had been posting Craigslist advertisements soliciting rape in Diaz’s name.
“Hadley is accused of replying to men who had posted on Craigslist, including sending them photos of the victim and details of the victim’s daily routine. Hadley is accused of telling the responders that the victim wanted the responders to have forcible sexual intercourse with her, even if she screamed or resisted,” the district attorney’s office said.
That accusation also now appears to be fabricated by Diaz.
Diaz told police “several” of the men who responded to the ads showed up at the victim’s home “with the intention of raping the victim but did not succeed.”
She told investigators one of the men “physically attacked the victim before she was able to call for help.”
Diaz said the man fled the scene, but he was not found by Anaheim Police.
On June 24, Hadley was arrested for the first time on several charges. She was released on $100,000 bail that same day.
But the Craigslist ads didn’t stop, and police accused Hadley of continuing to post them.
“Hadley is accused of using increasingly violent language and threatening the victim’s life,” the Orange County Prosecutor’s Office said in its press release.
That led to the second arrest and stunning charges against Hadley on July 14.
2. Hadley & Ian Diaz Dated for 2 Years Before a Rocky Breakup
Hadley and the victim’s husband, Ian Diaz, who works as a deputy with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, dated from 2013 to 2015, before he was married to the victim, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Hadley’s father, Michael Hadley, told The Daily Beast his daughter met Ian Diaz in 2013 at a Starbucks, and they began dating after he told her she how beautiful she was.”
A now-deleted wedding registry said they were set to be married in February 2016.
Michael Hadley told The Daily Beast the relationship was filled with problems, and court documents reveal some of those issues, including a disastrous breakup that involved protective orders and other legal battles.
Ian Diaz filed for a protective order against Hadley in September 2015, after they broke up, but it was dismissed three weeks after it was filed.
Diaz submitted several email exchanges he had with Hadley, along with accusations against her from incidents during their relationship, in his request for the protective order, court documents show. But it is now not clear if she wrote those emails, or if they were fabricated by Diaz.
“I work as a U.S. Marshal and after showing my supervisor the threatening emails, he recommended that I seek a domestic violence restraining order,” the deputy said in his September 2015 petition,” Diaz wrote. “(She) has told me that I must comply with her demands or be prepared for God’s vengeance and referred to me as Satan and the Antichrist. Because of her emotional instability, history of fits of rage, and self-medication with alcohol, I fear for my safety.”
Hadley brought her own case against Ian Diaz, according to court records. The couple had bought a condo in Anaheim together for $468,500, and Hadley sued Diaz for breach of settlement for not assuming the mortgage. Hadley moved out of the condo after they split up.
That civil case is still pending, and a case management conference was postponed in October because Hadley was in jail. Another conference is scheduled for January 10.
3. After Her Arrest, Hadley’s Father Said His Daughter Was Being Set Up, but Prosecutors Said the Case Was Thoroughly Investigated & ‘Shows Some of the Dangers of Social Media’
After her arrest, Michelle Hadley’s father, Michael Hadley, was quick to claim his daughter was being set up, but in an interview with The Daily Beast, he accused Ian Diaz, not Angela Diaz, of being behind the plot to frame her.
“The marshal knows her email address,” Michael Hadley told The Daily Beast in July 2016. “They were going to get married. They got the condo and everything else and it all fell apart. This is where it all starts.”
He said his daughter was being framed out for revenge over the condo issue and lawsuit.
Michelle Hadley and Ian Diaz bought the condo was one month before the protective order was requested by Ian Diaz, according to court documents.
In an email included in the request for the protective order, Hadley hinted at her concerns about Diaz, writing she made a mistake by moving in with him “despite my very valid reservations about your character and conduct.”
According to court documents, Hadley told a support group she was scared of Diaz because he is a deputy marshal and owns several guns. She also had him barred from the campus of Chapman University, where she was pursuing her master’s degree in business administration, because she feared for her safety, court documents show.
She also accused her former fiance of once getting her drunk and then having a random man “have sex with her” on video.
“You do not get any woman, let alone the woman you purport to love, drunk and find a random man for her to have sex with while you make a pornographic video of her. That is rape, which is against the law,” Hadley wrote in an email. “Luckily, there are plenty of text messages and a video to prove that you and the man you found coerced me sexually.”
Michael Hadley told The Daily Beast that Diaz was “emotionally abusive” toward his daughter, and could have hacked into her email and social media accounts because he knew her passwords.
“When she left the place she had nothing,” Hadley said. “She showed up on our doorstep and that was all she wrote. She didn’t want to get anything out (of the condo). She just wanted to get away from him. She has been scared to death of this guy since the day she left him..
Michael Hadley told The Daily Beast police never took a statement from Michelle Hadley, and never accepted her request for them to go through her emails.
Prosecutors initially stood by the investigation, telling The Daily Beast in July 2016 the investigation by police was “very thorough.”
Deputy District Attorney Richard Zimmer said, “What was presented to us … we have enough evidence to prove this case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. This case just shows some of the dangers of social media and the online world we live in now.”
Zimmer told reporters he was “sick to his stomach” after he realized Hadley was innocent.
“I’ve had more sleepless nights these past six months than I’ve ever had,” Zimmer said. “The last thing our office wants to do is charge an innocent person.”
“From what we’re seeing, she’s a serial con artist,” Zimmer said of Diaz. “She duped us. It was very sophisticated, well thought out and took a great deal of planning.”
4. She Graduated From Dickinson College in 2009 & Has Had Several Jobs in Marketing
Hadley is a California native who graduated from Claremont High School, according to her Facebook page.
She then studied at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, graduating in 2009 with a degree in medieval and early modern studies and minors in art history and women’s studies, she says on her Linkedin profile. She is pursuing her master’s of business administration at Chapman University, with a focus in marketing, and was scheduled to graduate in 2017.
Since graduating from college, Hadley has had several jobs, including as a proposal and marketing support manager at the York Risk Services Group from 2011 to 2014, and as an associate program manager at Disneyland from 2014 to 2015, according to her Linkedin profile.
“Her life has been pretty much taken away from her. She feels the eyes of everyone on her when she goes out — wondering if she is that person who did all those things — so she stays inside,” her attorney, Michael Guisti, told the Los Angeles Times. “She’s asking herself how does one go on to rebuild after something like this.”
Guisti said Hadley plans to resume her graduate studies now that she’s been cleared.
According to a blog written by Hadley and a church newsletter, she was married before her relationship with the ex-boyfriend. Hadley and her ex-husband were married in 2009, but it is not known when they divorced.
5. Hadley Faced Up to Life in Prison if Convicted of the Charges Against Her
Hadley faced up to life in prison if convicted of all the charges she was accused of.
According to court records, she was charged with six counts of attempted forcible rape, stalking, stalking with a restraining order, criminal threats, three counts of a secondary offense committed while released from custody and assault with intent to commit sexual offense during the commission of first-degree burglary, all felonies. She was also charged with misdemeanor violation of a protective/stay away order.
The charges were dismissed on January 9.
“I want to make sure that Ms. Hadley is cleared in every possible way,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a press conference Monday morning. “In the courtroom, and in the court of public opinion. It needs to be made clear in the media and in cyberspace. Ms. Hadley is an innocent victim of a diabolical scheme.”
Diaz was arrested in Arizona and is being held there pending extradition to California, Rackauckas said.
She is facing 32 charges, including felony kidnapping, two counts of forgery, perjury and false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud or deceit.
She is also facing several misdemeanors, including 21 counts of false report of a criminal offense, and one count of filing a false report with police.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on January 8, 2017, to reflect new details in the case.