Doug Grant Gets Five Years After Slain Wifes Sister Pressed for His Conviction Based on a Dream
Almost eight years after Faylene Grant drowned at her Gilbert home, her husband, Doug, faced a county judge last Friday, May 15, to hear his fate.
The 43-year-old onetime nutritionist for the Phoenix Suns was handcuffed, shackled, and wearing a black-and-white-striped jail suit that's been his attire since a jury convicted him of manslaughter.
Judge Meg Mahoney had several sentencing options in the high-profile case that New Times covered extensively before, during, and after the trial:
• Prosecutor Juan Martinez asked her to order the "super-aggravated" sentence of 12 1/2 years in prison.
• Grant's family pleaded for probation, possible under Arizona law, though highly unlikely given the circumstances.
• An adult probation officer was recommending more than the presumptive, or average, term of five years behind bars.
• Grant's defense attorney, Mel McDonald, was asking for the mitigated sentence of just under four years.
"Judge, he's a good and decent man," McDonald told Mahoney in a barely audible rasp. "Please give him a light at the end of his tunnel."
Mahoney had sat through months of an unusually tense trial that captured the imagination of the national media.
Now, in a courtroom packed with members of both Doug's and Faylene's families, trial jurors, media, and the merely interested, the judge was about to impose sentence.
(Some jurors had favored a guilty verdict of first-degree murder before they eventually compromised to the less-serious charge of manslaughter. One jury member sat with Faylene's family during the sentencing.)
Before announcing her decision, Judge Mahoney heard from those hoping for a lenient sentence and from hang 'em high prosecutor Martinez. Earlier, she also read dozens of letters both favoring and damning Grant.
Doug Grant's current father-in-law, Sterling Dewitt, told the judge he had been opposed to his daughter Hilary's marriage to the defendant so soon after Faylene died, about three weeks.
But Dewitt explained that so-called farewell letters penned by 35-year-old Faylene to Hilary and many others during her last weeks helped change his mind.
Faylene reiterated in several of these letters that Hilary should become the new "earthly" mother of her four children as soon as Faylene died.
"As strange as this story is and this trial has been," Dewitt said, "I want to tell Faylene, 'Faylene, you could not have picked a better person to be the mother of your children.'"
A tearful Hilary Grant said her husband "will pay a terrible price for the rest of his life" for mistakes he made on the morning of September 27, 2001 — including twice calling a physician's assistant instead of 911 after he'd lifted Faylene out of the bathtub.
But, she continued, "Doug lives for family. He's never said one harsh word about Faylene. I know how much Doug misses [her]."
Grant's son Bowan (from his first marriage) told Mahoney he is about to graduate from high school and that his father had been the catalyst in straightening him out.
The last two speakers on Grant's behalf were his two sons with Faylene, Marley and Braven, 12 and 11, respectively. Hilary Grant, who adopted the boys years ago, stood with them as they addressed the judge.
"I am here because I know my dad is innocent," Marley Grant said. "I know that my mom [Faylene] would want my dad to be forgiven. I know he did everything he could to try to save her."
Sobbing, Braven said his father "has been the best dad. I know he would never do anything to hurt my mom in Heaven or here. Please let my dad come home. I love my dad."
Voice dripping with sarcasm, Juan Martinez said when it was his turn "how wonderful a father [Grant] is, because he has provided a field trip for Marley and Braven today. Can you imagine that there isn't going to be any psychological scarring to these kids by bringing them here to see their father in the middle of this spectacle?" (Hilary had taken the two youngest boys into the lobby before Martinez began his remarks.)
Martinez told the judge that Doug Grant murdered Faylene while Marley, Braven, and their half-sister Jenna Stradling were nearby in the home.
"He is not, in our view, a wonderful father," the prosecutor said.
As he did during the trial, Martinez continued to hit hard at Grant's supposed bad character, telling Mahoney that the defendant had engaged "in some sort of threesome" with Faylene and Hilary.
"It's just tawdry," the prosecutor said, "this ménage à trois, as the French call it, that he [went] through."
Actually, Martinez presented no evidence that Doug and ex-girlfriend Hilary ever even saw each other, much less engaged in sexual improprieties, after Doug and Faylene remarried in July 2001.
Certainly, though, the relationship between the trio was, at best, unorthodox. They all stayed in close telephone contact during the two months before Faylene died, and Hilary and Faylene swapped several letters during that time.
Going off his script after Martinez finished, Doug Grant attacked the prosecutor for impugning his parenting skills.
He "hasn't a clue" about being a father, Grant said of Martinez, who has no children of his own.
More on point, Grant noted that not immediately calling 911 on the fatal morning "will haunt me the rest of my life." (Grant again claimed he did call 911 about seven minutes after he first called the physician's assistant, though he never could prove it during trial.)
"I never had any malicious intent toward my wife, Faylene, at any time — just mistakes," Grant said, his voice breaking. "I'm truly sorry for the things I did and didn't do that morning . . . I loved her so deeply."
Among his "mistakes," Grant said, he never should have suggested to Faylene, hours before she fatally sunk under the water in the tub, that she take a sleeping pill. (She had been injured a few days before in a mysterious fall from a mountain cliff during the couple's second honeymoon in Utah.)
Tests showed that Faylene had ingested five Ambien before she drowned — not a fatal dose but one that would have rendered her unconscious.
Grant told the judge that he also shouldn't have fallen asleep after helping Faylene to the bathroom after she had urinated in their bed shortly before daybreak.
"I believe it was a great error on my part," he told Mahoney.
Before finishing, Grant read to the judge a portion of a letter he had received from his Cherlene Patterson, one of Faylene's sisters, shortly after his July 2005 arrest.
In the letter, Patterson told Grant that "one night [sometime after Faylene's death], after receiving a blessing and praying especially hard to know the truth, I had the special privilege of Faye coming to me in a dream."
In that dream, Faylene "told" Patterson that Doug Grant had murdered her.
According to Grant, the dream led Patterson to push Gilbert police to continue to investigate, even after the county medical examiner ruled Faylene's manner of death as "undetermined" — not homicide, suicide, or accidental.
Judge Mahoney kept her remarks brief before pronouncing sentence.
She said she disagreed with the pro-Grant speakers who insisted that the greatest lingering tragedy was what would happen to the defendant's children if she ordered him to prison.
"The greatest tragedy is what happened to Faylene," the judge said tersely.
But Mahoney was about to surprise many who suspected she would sentence Grant to at least 10 years in prison.
She said she appreciated the "clearly very sincere sharing of personal details" in letters sent to the court by many of Grant's family, friends, and community acquaintances.
The letters spoke of Grant's helping people out of jams over the years, for no apparent financial or personal gain.
Mahoney then sentenced Grant to five years in prison — the average term.
Finally, it was over.
Sheriff's deputies escorted Grant out of the courtroom to a holding cell, as prosecutor Martinez and the controversial chief case investigator, Gilbert police Sergeant Sy Ray, quickly exited through a different door.
Doug Grant must serve a little more than four years in state prison before becoming eligible for release.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.