A former pastor accused of drugging and drowning his pregnant wife in a bathtub has been found guilty of manslaughter by a jury after two days of deliberations.
Philip Grandine, 28, accidentally described by his lawyer during closing arguments as “Mr. Lorazepam,” remained impassive as the verdict was read.
Grandine was charged with first-degree murder six months after his wife was killed on Oct. 17, 2011.
Anna Karissa Grandine was 29-years-old and 20 weeks pregnant when she died.
She never learned the sex of the baby — she was killed four days before the ultrasound appointment, the trial heard.
Karissa, as she was known to friends and family, was excited about becoming a mother, Crown prosecutor Donna Kellway told the jury in her closing statement.
On her bedside table, by a pillow that the Crown alleged became stained with vomit on the night of her death as she reacted to the sedative in her system, was a pregnancy book.
The Crown argued that Grandine, a trained nurse and manager at a retirement home, planned to murder his wife by drugging her with prescription sedatives he could easily take from his workplace. His motive — to be free to be with his mistress Eileen Florentino, who he continued to see before and after Karissa’s death, the trial heard.
The defence argued that Karissa somehow obtained and took the drugs herself. Her death may have been an accident, defence lawyer Amit Thakore suggested, or she committed suicide in a fog of depression brought on by her husband’s infidelity.
Grandine resigned as a pastor at the Ennerdale Baptist Church after Karissa discovered the affair in August 2011, standing up before the community and admitting that he had cheated on his wife with a parishioner.
The couple began marriage counselling and a computer filter to prevent him from watching pornography was installed on their home computer. It was uninstalled on the night Karissa died, half-an-hour before Grandine called 911.
He used the computer to do Internet searches on whether 100 mg of Lorazepam would be fatal, according to the Crown. Search terms included: “autopsy,” “Lorazepam” and “toxicology” indicating he was concerned about the death looking suspicious, Kellway argued.
He used a high but still “therapeutic” dose of the drug, commonly known as Ativan, so it would not look like an overdose, Kellway said.
He first used himself as a guinea pig to test the effects of the drug, making him drowsy and nauseous, the Crown argued.
Then he conducted a “dress rehearsal” for the murder, spiking Karissa’s banana smoothie four days before she died.
Karissa was hospitalized overnight as a result and told her friend that it felt like she “lost a day of her life” because she could not remember what had happened. She wondered to her sister whether Grandine had put something in her drink, the trial heard.
On the night of Oct. 17, 2011, a Monday, the Crown said Grandine put the final plan in motion. He once again drugged Karissa’s smoothie and either carried or coaxed his disoriented or possibly unconscious wife to the bathtub, Kellway said. Oddly, her head was by the tap end of the bath, Kellway said in her closing argument.
He may have gently held her head under the water, or simply let her body sink, Kellway said. Then he called 911 from the landline in the Scarborough home.
The 911 call, the defence argued, shows Grandine genuinely tried to help his wife when he came home from an hour-long night-time jog to find her unconscious in the bathtub
He actually spent half of that hour on the phone with Florentino, their final call ending three minutes before he dialed 911, the court heard.
Superior Court Justice Robert Clark specifically warned the jury not to punish Grandine for behaviour they may find “morally repugnant.” He is on trial for murder, not “any moral failings you may attribute to him,” Clark said in his charge to the jury.
The jury had the option to convict Grandine of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter, or to acquit him.
To make a finding of manslaughter, the jury would have had to find that Grandine caused his wife’s death through an unlawful act.
In this case, that could mean surreptitiously drugging his wife (itself an unlawful act) and causing her to get into the bathtub, Clark told the jury.
But in a question to the judge on Wednesday the jury raised a new scenario, one not previously addressed during the trial. What if Grandine had knowledge of Karissa taking a bath while under the influence of the sedative and didn’t stop her?
Clark responded that Grandine had a legal duty to protect his spouse from harm and explained that failing to stop Karissa from taking a bath of her volition while knowing she was drugged could constitute an unlawful act that caused death.
But in order to make a finding of murder, the jury would have to conclude that Grandine intended to kill his wife.
“It’s clear that the jury has found that he had no intention to kill his wife,” said Grandine’s defence lawyer Thakore. “It seems from what the jury has determined, the fault that the jury seems to be ascribing to him is in preventing his wife from going into the bathtub that night and that’s a far cry from what was being alleged in relation to his behaviour.”
Grandine, who has been on bail since shortly after his arrest, was handcuffed and taken into custody after the verdict.
“This man’s bail is revoked,” Clark gruffly said. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for next Thursday.
The Crown told the court they would be seeking a “substantial and lengthy” prison sentence.
“Karissa was truly a kind and generous person,” her sister Hannah Darvin told reporters in a brief statement after the verdict, her mother Maria Darvin standing by her side. “She has been and will continue to be sorely missed.”