Prosecutor Takes First Shots in Mormon Murder Case

By Paul Rubin

Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez is taking his sweet time spelling out his first-degree murder case against former Phoenix Suns nutritionist Doug Grant (pictured here with deceased wife Faylene) to a Maricopa County jury.

At the end of the day Wednesday, Martinez told Superior Court Judge Meg Mahoney that he didn't expect to finish his opening statement in the high-profile case until late this afternoon, which means that Grant's defense attorney Mel McDonald won't get his say until Monday morning (no court on Fridays). McDonald is not known for his brevity in the courtroom, but he may seem a just-the-facts-ma'am sort coming to bat after the wordy prosecutor.

Television crews from, count `em, three national newsmagazine shows (ABC's 20/20, CBS' 48 Hours and NBC's Dateline found spots inside the packed courtroom, as one of the most anticipated local trials in quite awhile finally got under way.

Grant is accused of killing wife Faylene by giving her an overdose of the sleep medication Ambien and then putting her in a bathtub at their Gilbert home, where she drowned (she officially died hours later at a Mesa hospital, but never was truly rescusitated.)

We recently published an in-depth two-parter on this fascinating case which spells out the shakiness of the state's case, including an extremely dubious motive for murder and troubling, utterly one-sided police work by Gilbert Detective (now Sergeant) Sy Ray.

The possibility that Faylene died accidently or committed suicide seems every bit as likely as that her husband murdered her.

But the series also pointed out that despite the paucity of evidence against the 42-year-old Grant, the fact that he serially cheated on his late wife Faylene and then married a 20-year-old woman within weeks after Faylene's mysterious death in September 2001, utimately may sway jurors against him.

Prosecutor Martinez (left) told the 16-member panel, which includes four alternates to be chosen after closing arguments (probably sometime next February or March) that Grant remained deeply involved with the young woman, Hilary DeWitt, after his unexpected July 2001 remarriage to Faylene--who had divorced him the previous year.

"When [Doug] was in Vancouver, he and Hilary literally spent the night together on the cell phone," Martinez said during an often-rambling, deeply detailed presentation that he did without notes.

Perhaps the most startling moment in the veteran Martinez's opening came when he cast doubt on the consistent accounts given by both Doug and Faylene Grant after the 35-year-old mother of four suffered injuries in a fall from a cliff south of Salt Lake City just three days before she died.

Readers of this blog will have to refer to my series for details of that fall--trust me, it will be worth it. Suffice to say, the Grants together and separately told medical personnel, family members and friends that Faylene had slipped and fallen during a hike with Doug during the second leg of their second honeymoon.

Martinez seemed to be implying that the couple had been lying to protect Doug, who apparently (under this completely uncorroborated theory) might have beaten her in Utah, causing the bruises and cuts that the re-newlyweds subscribed to the fall.

The weird theory may have foreshadowed a likely prosecution theory that Doug Grant was a kind of Svengali whose manipulation of those around him, especially his wife Faylene and future wife Hilary, knew no bounds.

Under this take, Grant apparently was so psychologically powerful that his wife feared revealing to anyone in the world that he allegedly had injured her somehow.

Martinez's remarkably long opening (he seems to be channeling our own long narrative model) continues this morning in downtown Phoenix.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin