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Ex-pastor found guilty of manslaughter in death of pregnant wife

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TORONTO — A former Toronto pastor accused of secretly sedating his pregnant wife before she drowned in the bathtub was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday, his second conviction in a case that has spanned more than seven years.

Jurors convicted Philip Grandine after deliberating for just over a day. The man, who has been out on bail for more than six years while the case wound its way through the justice system, looked straight ahead as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors alleged Grandine drugged his wife with the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam, better known as Ativan, so she wouldn’t be as vigilant while he continued an affair with her friend.

The Crown alleged he then did not prevent Anna Karissa Grandine from getting in a bath in her incapacitated state one night in October 2011.

Anna Grandine, who went by Karissa, was 20 weeks pregnant when she died. Tests later revealed she had lorazepam in her blood despite never being prescribed the drug.

Defence lawyers had argued she took the medication herself and either slipped in the tub, hitting her head and drowning, or took her own life.

Her family attended court for much of the trial but was not present for the verdict. Toronto police Det. Sgt. Terry Browne, the lead investigator in the case, said he shared the news with her mother and sister.

“They’re obviously relieved with the outcome of this, it’s been a long time for them. Obviously not a day goes by that they don’t think about their daughter, their sister, and of course, we know, the unborn child,” Browne said outside court.

“It’s been very, very stressful for everyone involved but they’re comforted that the end result has come today.”

Family members will have a chance to tell the court how Anna Grandine’s death has affected them during a sentencing hearing scheduled to begin April 15. Her husband will remain free on bail, with conditions, until he’s sentenced.

Philip Grandine had previously been tried for first-degree murder in his wife’s death and was found guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The conviction was overturned on appeal after Ontario’s highest court found the trial judge had made an error in answering a question from the jury. A new trial was ordered on the manslaughter charge, which meant prosecutors could no longer argue Grandine intended to kill his wife.

At the latest trial, Superior Court Justice Faye McWatt said that in order to return a guilty verdict, jurors must find Philip Grandine’s actions contributed significantly to his wife’s death, even if they were not the only or the main cause.

McWatt said Grandine could be found guilty of manslaughter if the jury believed he either administered the Ativan — a controlled substance under law — to his wife or provided it to her. Both could be considered criminal acts: administering a noxious substance or trafficking a controlled substance, respectively, she said.

Jurors could also find him guilty if they found he committed criminal negligence by failing to protect Anna Grandine from harm knowing she was under the influence of the medication, the judge said.

Prosecutors said Philip Grandine had access to Ativan through his job as a nurse manager at a seniors’ home. They also pointed to searches on the couple’s computer on how to acquire the drug and what would be considered a fatal dose.

The Crown alleged Grandine was behind the searches, noting some occurred roughly at the same time as searches for escorts and other sex-related topics. Prosecutors also said lorazepam was not a drug that should be used by pregnant women and Anna Grandine was conscientious about the health of her baby.

The defence argued it was Anna Grandine who looked up lorazepam, suggesting she sought to self-medicate in light of the upheaval in her life.

Court heard Philip Grandine stepped down as pastor after it came to light that he was having an affair with a parishioner, who was also his wife’s friend. The congregation, to which Anna Grandine belonged, was also told of the affair, court heard.

Another pastor agreed to give them marriage counselling if Philip Grandine stopped cheating and gave up pornography, conditions the couple accepted, court heard.

But Grandine quickly resumed the affair and over time, his wife became suspicious, even challenging him on the issue in an early October counselling session, court heard.

Then, in mid-October, Anna Grandine suddenly experienced dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms, prompting her husband to take her to hospital, court heard. Her sister said Anna Grandine was afraid; her mother testified the 29-year-old asked her husband if he had given her a pill, which he denied.

Three days later, Anna Grandine died. Court heard forensic pathologists conducted toxicology tests and detected Ativan in her system, then checked the samples taken during her hospital visit, where they also found the drug.

The trial heard Grandine told police he was out for a run and returned to find his wife unresponsive in the bathtub.

Paola Loriggio , The Canadian Press

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Canadian Forces Snowbirds release video of Jennifer Casey homecoming

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From the Facebook page of Canadian Forces Snowbirds 

You are joining us live from the Halifax International Airport for the homecoming of Captain Jennifer Casey, a military Public Affairs Officer who was killed in a CF Snowbirds crash during Operation INSPIRATION.

Homecoming of Captain Jennifer Casey | La capitaine Jennifer Casey rentre chez elle

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