It’s a story that seems too outlandish even for a Hollywood script.
Michelle Hadley was arrested in July 2016, accused of sending threatening emails to her ex-boyfriend’s new wife, and going as far as posting “rape fantasy” ads on Craigslist in the woman’s name, leading men to show up at her house. Hadley was charged with attempted forcible rape, first-degree burglary and stalking. She was booked on $1 million bail and faced up to life in prison. The case made national and international headlines, with Hadley’s mugshot and headlines deeming her a “crazy ex-girlfriend” splashed across websites.
After three months in jail, Hadley, 30 was released with help from her attorney, Michael Guisti, who pressed investigators to look deeper into the case. Prosecutors announced months later that she had been cleared. Hadley had been set up by her ex-boyfriend’s wife, Angela Connell Diaz, prosecutors said.
Guisti called it the “perfect storm of catfishing.”
Now Angela Diaz, the 31-year-old wife of Hadley’s former boyfriend, a U.S. Marshal named Ian Diaz, is the one facing serious charges, including several felonies. Prosecutors say she sent the emails to herself and also posted the ads on Craigslist.
“It’s often said that true life is stranger than fiction,” Orange County District Attorney Tony 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.”
The case is being featured tonight on Dateline NBC, with Hadley speaking out about her experience for the first time.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Diaz Is Accused of Creating a Fake Crime Scene to Make it Look Like She Was Attacked by a Man Who Responded to One of the Craigslist Ads
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.
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.
Police now say those posts were made by Hadley.
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. Police now say she faked that crime scene and accusation.
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.
Prosecutors said Diaz knew Hadley had been released from custody and began sending the fake threats again.
That led to the second arrest of Hadley on July 14.
Prosecutors said the emails were really coming from Diaz, and that was uncovered through an investigation that took several months:
On many occasions from June 1, 2016, to July 13, 2016, Diaz is accused of falsely filing police reports with APD, calling for officers to respond to the home she shared with John Doe. The defendant is accused of making false claims that Hadley made threats against her life and the life of her unborn child. Diaz is accused of routing emails to herself under the guise of appearing that the threatening e-mails came from Hadley from approximately eight different accounts using Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) and third-party proxy servers in order to avoid detection of her Internet Protocol (IP) address by law enforcement.
Investigators found records showing the posts actually came from the home Angela Diaz shared with Ian Diaz, from Angela Diaz’s phone and from her father’s home in Phoenix.
Prosecutors say there is no evidence Ian Diaz knew of Angela Diaz’s scheme.
Deputy District Attorney Rick 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.”
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.”
Charges against Angela Maria Diaz, whose maiden name is Angela Connell, were filed on January 6, 2017.
“I want to make sure that Ms. Hadley is cleared in every possible way,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a press conference announcing the new charges. “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.”
2. Hadley Says She Thinks She Was Targeted Because She Was in a Fight With Her Ex-Boyfriend Over the Condo They Owned Together
Hadley told NBC’s Today Show she believes she was targeted by Angela Diaz because she was in a dispute with Ian Diaz, her ex-boyfriend who was now married to Angela, over a condo Hadley and Ian owned together.
Hadley and 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 Ian and Michelle were set to be married in February 2016.
Ian Diaz and Michelle Hadley broke up around September 2015. They owned a condo in Anaheim together, and he stayed there, living with Angela Diaz.
Hadley sued Ian Diaz for breach of settlement for not assuming the mortgage.
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.”
The restraining order was rejected. Police have not said who wrote the threatening emails Ian Diaz received, but investigators are looking into whether they were sent by Angela Diaz.
In an email included in the request for the protective order, Hadley hinted at her concerns about Ian 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.”
3. Prosecutors Say Diaz Is a ‘Serial Con Artist’ Who Also Faked Being Pregnant With Twins, Pretended to Have Cervical Cancer & Stole From Her Employer
Prosecutors said Angela Diaz also pretended to be pregnant with twins during her relationship with Ian Diaz, faked having cervical cancer in a previous relationship and stole $2,000 from her employer. They said she has also pretended to be a lawyer in the past, and faked doctors notes to back up her stories about being pregnant and sick.
“From what we’re seeing, she’s a serial con artist,” Deputy District Attorney Richard Zimmer said of Diaz. “She duped us. It was very sophisticated, well thought out and took a great deal of planning.”
Born Angela Connell, she is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated from Arizona State University in 2006 with degrees in theatre and political science, according to her Linkedin profile.
Prior to Arizona State, she graduated from Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix in 2003.
She describes herself on her Linkedin profile as the founder and CEO of YouthSpeak, which she started in 2004.
“YouthSpeak is a non-profit organization that seeks to assist underserved countries. Through the building of self-sustaining clincs (sic), schools, and youth facilities–we are able to rebuild the crumbling foundations of some of the poorest countries around the world. Current projects are in Honduras, Central America,” she writes.
Connell’s connections to Honduras and charity work begin with her father, Dr. Patrick Connell, an Arizona doctor who has spent several years volunteering in Central America and elsewhere.
Connell has also worked with the SPCA of Orange County.
4. Hadley, Who Lost Her Apartment, Job & Dropped Out of Grad School, Plans to Sue the Police & Has Started a Blog to Write About Her Experience
Michelle Hadley is now working to put her life back together. She lost her job and her apartment and had to drop out of business school after she was arrested. She has since returned to business school at Chapman University and is the co-owner of a company called Babes With Coffee, according to her Linkedin profile.
She is also writing about her experiences on a blog, titled “2 Fales Arrest. 86 Days in Jail. But That won’t stop me from loving, laughing or living.”
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.
Hadley also plans to sue the Anaheim Police Department for her false arrest, her attorney, Michael Guisti, told NBC.
“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.”
Hadley blames Anaheim Police for not believing her story that she was being set up, and for not digging deeper before arresting her.
“I appreciate the apologies,” she told Dateline. “But the apologies don’t rebuild your life and the apologies don’t undo what’s been done.”
5. Diaz, Who Has Been Held in Jail Since Her Arrest, Faces Almost 13 Years in Prison & Is Being Divorced by Her Husband
Diaz has been held in jail since her arrest. She was taken into custody and then brought back to Orange County.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has lodged 32 counts against her, including 10 felonies — two counts each of kidnapping, possession or receipt of items as forgery, acts constituting forgery and one count each of kidnapping, and one count each of false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud or deceit and grand theft.
She is also facing 21 misdemeanor counts of false report of criminal offense, along with filing a false report with police.
Diaz could be sentenced to up to 12 years and 8 months in prison if found guilty. She has pleaded not guilty.
Her attorney, Allison Margolin, told The Daily Beast there could be other suspects in the case. She also said Angela Diaz makes an “easier target” for prosecutors than her husband, U.S. Marshal Ian Diaz.
“It’s still unclear who was involved and how many suspects there are. It’s not clear to me why Angela is being singled out and somehow [pegged as] the mastermind of the entire situation,” Margolin told The Daily Beast. “People are innocent until proven guilty. When the government is publicly telling their side of the story, and the defense hasn’t had the opportunity to see all the evidence, I think people should look at that skeptically.”
According to online court documents, Ian Diaz is seeking to divorce Angela.
She is due back in court in her criminal case on March 3 and again on April 10.