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Mother mourns daughter at sentencing hearing for ex-pastor guilty of manslaughter

Last Updated May 30, 2019 at 3:55 pm EDT

Former Scarborough pastor Philip Grandine (left) is shown in a Toronto court on Jan. 9, 2015 during his first trial in the death of his wife Anna Karissa Grandine in 2011. CITYNEWS/Marianne Boucher

The mother of a pregnant woman whose husband was found guilty of manslaughter asked a court Thursday to justly punish her son-in-law, saying she has spent the last seven years grieving not only for her daughter but also for her unborn grandchild.

Charito (Maria) Darvin told a sentencing hearing that her world caved in when she learned Anna Grandine – who went by her middle name Karissa – drowned in a bathtub in October 2011.

“This lawlessness was done first of all against God, against Karissa, their unborn baby and the rest of society,” she said. “There must be a just punishment for this heinous act, as my daughter cries out for justice from her grave.”

In February, a jury found ex-pastor Philip Grandine guilty of manslaughter in the death of his wife, who was found with the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam in her system despite not having a prescription for it.

The Crown alleged Grandine secretly sedated his wife so that he could carry on an affair with a friend of hers, but the defence argued that the woman took the drugs herself.

Darvin said she didn’t believe word of her daughter’s death at first. Once she accepted what had happened, she said she blamed both herself and her son-in-law.

“I felt angry at myself. Why was I not there when she died?” she recalled thinking. “And what of her husband? How did this happen? Where was he when she was having a bath?”

She told court she had last spoken to her daughter just hours earlier.

“It was one of those usual mother-daughter phone calls,” she said. “Just before we ended the conversation, I remember her saying ‘I love you mom.’ How was I to know that this would be the last time I was hearing her voice.”

Since then, Darvin said, she has been plagued by deep sorrow and a feeling of emptiness. She told the court she had trouble sleeping, wishing her daughter and unborn grandchild would be there when she woke up.

Anna Grandine’s father, who lives in the Philippines, said he too had been irreversibly changed by his daughter’s death.

In his victim impact statement, read out in court by Crown lawyer Donna Kellway, he described the long trip to Toronto to bury his daughter.

“I was so grieved and heartbroken on the way there that I became so dizzy and almost passed out,” he said.

As his plane was landing for a layover, his blood pressure skyrocketed, court heard. He was hospitalized, but insisted he be released so he could attend Grandine’s funeral.

It was only later that he learned he had suffered from two strokes that day, court heard.

“Her death forever left in me a big, broken heart,” he wrote. “I cannot accept it up until now. (I am) seriously traumatized and forever worried about the safety of my younger children.”

Leaders within the Grandines’ church community said the case had deeply affected them too.

“This has stolen my trust and faith in people,” said deacon Robert Steeves. “If a pastor can betray you, who can you trust?”

Cliff McDowell, another church leader who noted he had known Anna Grandine since she was a child, said her death had left a hole in the community.

“We lost a giver, not a taker. Someone who loved life, her family and that child-to-be,” he said through tears. “Now we must honour the memory of her.”

Prosecutors will ask for a sentence of 13 to 15 years in prison based on the belief that Philip Grandine drugged his wife, Kellway said.

The defence, meanwhile, has asked for 18 months to two years based on their assertion that the former pastor simply knew his wife was using the drugs and allowed her to get into the bathtub.

The Crown noted, however, that Philip Grandine had access to lorazepam through his job as a nurse manager at a seniors’ home, and pointed to searches on the couple’s computer on how to acquire the drug and what would be considered a fatal dose.

Prosecutors alleged Grandine was behind the searches, noting some occurred at around the same time as searches for escorts and other sex-related topics. The Crown also pointed out that a pregnant woman should not be taking lorazepam, and Anna Grandine was conscientious about the health of her baby.

Justice Faye McWatt will decide on the facts before delivering her sentence.

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, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Ontario’s highest court found the trial judge made an error when answering a question from the jury and ordered a new trial on the manslaughter charge. That meant prosecutors could no longer argue that Grandine meant to kill his wife.