Date of Birth: January 30, 1964
On February 9, 1996, Adams accompanied Michelle
Anglin, a real estate sales person, on a tour of a model home. When they
reached an upstairs bedroom, Adams overpowered the diminutive Anglin,
tore off her clothing, and attempted to sexually assault her while he
choked her to death.
Buttons from her blouse were found in the bedroom
closet, along with semen stains. Household furnishings were damaged as
Anglin fought for her life. When her husband and other family members
were unable to reach her by pager, police went to the model homes office
to do a welfare check. They found her body stuffed under the bed in an
Adams was convicted of first-degree murder; kidnapping; attempted sexual
assault; and, second degree burglary.
Presiding Judge: Honorable Ronald S. Reinstein
Prosecutor: John Ditsworth
Start of Trial: July 1, 1997
Verdict: July 14, 1997
Sentencing: November 21, 1997
Previously convicted of serious offense
None offered or found
July 8, 2004 -
issued by US District Court in the scheduled execution of
inmate James ADAMS
Murdered woman's mom talks to 3TV after killer commits
By Mike Watkiss - Azfamily.com
March 16, 2010
PHOENIX – A notorious Arizona death row case ended unexpectedly Sunday
when a 46-year-old inmate committed suicide.
James Van Adams was sentenced to death for murdering and sexually
assaulting a young real estate agent in the Valley about 14 years ago.
3TV’s Mike Watkiss spoke to the family of Michelle Cohen Anglin about
In 1996 this was a high-profile homicide case that rocked the state. A
beautiful young real estate agent was murdered while showing a home.
Now the man responsible is dead by his own hand and, according to the
victim’s family, that is welcome news.
“There’s evil in the world and know that everyone out there…that you
can’t trust everyone,” Cindy Scott.
Valley resident Scott is a woman who can talk with authority about the
topic of evil. In addition to being a young busy mom raising two
children, Cindy is also a well-respected detective with the Phoenix
Fourteen years ago, Cindy’s family was rocked by evil when Cindy’s
beautiful younger sister, Michelle Anglin, was brutally murdered as the
22-year-old real estate agent was showing a home to a man named James
He was a convicted sex offender masquerading as a prospective
Cindy says, “It’s horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone but
unfortunately the evil is out there and it’s gonna happen to somebody
again and they’re gonna have to deal with this.”
It is a heartache that has never left Cindy or her mother Peggy. It was
a very high-profile story in the late 1990s that is now back in the news
with word that James Van Adams, the man who was convicted and sent to
death row for sexually assaulting and killing Michelle Anglin has killed
himself inside a cell in an Arizona prison.
Peggy tells 3TV, “This man it’s like one day, one afternoon he took a
grenade and threw it in my family and destroyed it and he hung himself.”
Peggy goes on, “He strangled her. He got a little bit of what he did to
At her east Valley home on Wednesday Peggy makes no pretense and says
she is “ecstatic” over the news of Van Adams.
He was a registered sex offender who had done prison time in California
for sexually assaulting another real estate agent before he moved to
Arizona, taking the life of Peggy’s beloved daughter Michelle just three
months after Michelle’s wedding.
“She was a wonderful girl,” Peggy says. “She walked this earth for 22
years and I enjoyed every moment of it.”
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA
STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee,
Supreme Court No. CR-97-0471-AP
Appeal from the Superior Court of Maricopa County
¶1 Appellant James Van Adams appeals his conviction and death
sentence for first-degree premeditated murder.
The jury also convicted Appellant of kidnaping, attemptedsexual
assault, and second-degree burglary. Appellant filed anotice of appeal
from these convictions, but did not brief theseissues on appeal. We,
therefore, affirm these convictions and sentences. See State v. Greene,
192 Ariz. 431, 444 n.2, 967 P.2d106, 119 n.2 (1998); Ariz. R. Crim. P.
We review this case on direct, automatic appeal
pursuant to article VI, section 5.3, of the Arizona Constitution,
Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 13-4031(1989), and Rule
31.2.b, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. For the following reasons,
we affirm Appellant’s conviction and sentence.
¶2 On February 9, 1996, police discovered the body of Michelle Lee
Anglin, a 5'1", 96 pound, 22 year-old woman, in the master bedroom of a
tri-level model home at the Briarwood subdivision of Dave Brown Homes in
Ms. Anglin had been working alone at the subdivision as a real
estate salesperson that day. After family members were unable to reach
her by pager o rtelephone, Ms. Anglin’s sister, a Phoenix police officer,
called 911 with a “check welfare” request.
The first officers to arrive at the scene found the model home
office door unlocked, the lights and music on, and numerous personal
items belonging to Ms. Anglin. They conducted a preliminary search of
each of the three modelhomes, and during this first search located three
shirt buttons belonging to Ms. Anglin in the third model’s upstairs
master bedroom closet.
The officers also observed that two candles in that model’s master
bathroom had been knocked over, one into eachsink. Everything else
¶3 The police then began a more thorough search of the modelhomes,
and particularly of the third model home. They located Ms.
Anglin’s lifeless, twisted, disrobed body under the third model’s master
bed and noticed semen stains in that model’s master closet. The police
found broken ceramic candlesticks and articles of Ms.Anglin’s clothing
under the bed and saw paint and plaster chips in the master bath and
under the bed.
¶4 An autopsy revealed no evidence of sexual trauma, but didisclose
that Ms. Anglin had been grabbed, choked, and killed by asphyxiation, as
evidenced by three bruises to the left side of her neck and one opposing
bruise on the right. Both the Phoenix crime laboratory and the
Department of Public Safety (DPS) laboratory conducted DNA testing of
the carpet sample.
Although initial results excluded Appellant as the contributor, and
he was so notified, re-testing of the sample by the crime lab produced
contradictory results, which included him as a contributor. Additional
testing performed by DPS verified the latter result.
¶5 Although the police conducted extensive finger and footprinting
of the model, none of the prints recovered matched Appellant. Further,
none of the witnesses who viewed photo lineups positively identified
Appellant as being at the subdivision near the time of death, fixed at
between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on February 9, 1996.
¶6 The state presented several pieces of evidence to implicate
Appellant as Ms. Anglin’s assailant. A vehicle license check of
Appellant’s truck placed him within a few miles of the Briarwood homes
on February 9 at approximately 3:25 p.m.
Sometime between 3:45p.m. and 4:15 p.m. on that day, Ms. Anglin,
speaking by telephone to another Homes by Dave Brown sales agent, said
that a prospective buyer had just arrived at her subdivision. The fellow
agent’s return calls to Ms. Anglin between 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. went
A neighbor, who lived in the subdivision and arrived home from work
on February 9 between 4:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., recalled seeing a white
male exiting the steps of the third model home and noticed a black,
Chevrolet, full-sized, older model pickup truck, similar in description
to Appellant’s, in the model home parking lot.
Prospective buyers who visited the subdivision that day between 4:00
p.m. and 4:30 p.m. recalled seeing a man walking from the direction of
the second and third model homes and noticed that candlesticks in the
third model’s master bath had been knocked over and into the sinks.
Employment records indicated Appellant either left work on February
9 around noon and failed to return, or left work on February 8 and did
not report to work on February 9, after calling in “sick” due to car
Appellant’s employer and a co-worker each testified that when they
next saw Appellant, a facial injury and black eye that were not present
on February 8 or 9 were now evident. Evidence presented at trial also
established that Appellant had been to the Briarwood subdivision on
¶7 The state also adduced evidence concerning interactions between
Appellant and other sales agents several years earlier in California,
several months earlier at Briarwood, and several hours prior to Ms.
Susan Wright, an employee of Homes by Dave Brown, revealed that she
had several face-to-face meetings with Appellant at the Briarwood
subdivision, and numerous telephone conversations with him while at
Briarwood and at another subdivision to which she was transferred.
Her first encounter with Appellant at Briarwood occurred in
September or October, 1995, at which time Appellant requested that Ms.
Wright, who was working alone, accompany him to the third model. Ms.
Wright recalled that Appellant stood closer than normal to her and that,
although he indicated he had questions about the model, once inside he
Upon the arrival of other prospective buyers, the two immediately
left the model and returned to the office. Then, on November 5, 1995,
Appellant again visited the subdivision and filled out a guest
registration card as “Jim Adams.” Appellant made numerous other visits
and telephone calls to Ms. Wright, each time asking her out on dates.
¶8 Kim Ramos, a young real estate sales associate at a nearby
subdivision, testified concerning an encounter she had with Appellant at
approximately 2:00 p.m. on February 9, 1996. Appellant arrived at the
subdivision in an older model, black Chevrolet truck and asked her to
accompany him to the two-story model home to answer some questions.
Although Ms. Ramos did accompany him to the model, she testified she
was apprehensive and uneasy about Appellant, in part because of how
closely he walked next to her. She also stated that she did not spend
any appreciable amount of time with him in the model before returning to
the sales office, and felt Appellant’s questions concerning the model’s
tile flooring and fourth bedroom/den option were “stupid.”
Appellant’s undisputed visit with Ms. Ramos that day was confirmed
by a guest registration card that Appellant filled out at Ms.Ramos’
request, on which he listed his name as “James Adams” and provided his
correct address and telephone number. Ms. Ramos, whowas able to
positively identify Appellant and his truck through photographs, told
police that at the time she met Appellant none of his facial injuries
depicted in the photographs taken after Ms. Anglin’s murder existed.
¶9 Finally, the state presented the testimony of Melissa Cunningham
concerning a 1990 encounter she had with Appellant in California. Ms.
Cunningham, a young, petite, 5'4", 102 pound sales agent, was working
alone at a new home subdivision when Appellant requested that she
accompany him to view the model homes that were still under construction.
Appellant said he was particularly interested in a two-story model
and its upstairs master bedroom and closet. Ms. Cunningham spent a few
minutes with Appellant in that model’s master bedroom and closet. As
they walked down the stairs, Ms. Cunningham, who was in
the lead, heard two thumps, like footsteps, felt a shove, and fell down
to the floor below.
Appellant apologized, saying that he had tripped on a nail. As both
of them searched for the nail, Appellant grabbed Ms.Cunningham from
behind, placing one hand around her neck and choking her, while twisting
her head to the left with his other hand. He told her he would break her
neck if she said anything, dragged her down the hallway and into the
kitchen, threw her to the ground, and attempted to sexually assault her,
while ripping and tearing her clothes from her body. Ms. Cunningham
managed to escape and obtained Appellant’s truck license plate
number.Appellant was convicted in California of assault with intent to
commit rape, a felony. Ms. Cunningham identified Appellant during this
trial as her assailant.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm Appellant’s conviction of first-
degree premeditated murder and death sentence.
James Van Adams