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Former Toronto pastor Philip Grandine, centre, is shown in a Toronto courtroom in this Jan. 7, 2020, sketch. Grandine, convicted in the death of his pregnant wife, has been sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

Alexandra Newbould/The Canadian Press

A former Toronto pastor who secretly sedated his pregnant wife before she drowned was sentenced to 15 years behind bars on Tuesday, but immediately sought to be freed as he challenged his conviction for a second time.

Philip Grandine was sentenced in a Toronto courtroom nearly a year after jurors once again found him guilty of manslaughter in the death of his wife Anna Grandine.

With credit for time spent in custody before his trial and then on strict bail, Mr. Grandine faces nearly 12 years in prison. Prosecutors sought a sentence of 13 to 15 years, while the defence argued five to seven years would be more appropriate.

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Ontario Superior Court Justice Faye McWatt described the case as rare, calling Mr. Grandine’s behaviour “closer to almost murder” than most manslaughter cases.

“In committing this offence, (Grandine) did perpetrate a form of emotional and physical violence on his wife,” she told the court. “She had no idea what was being done to her. She could not have avoided the assaults. She could not see the weapon used against her.”

Mr. Grandine, who wore a light grey suit, did not react to the sentence as it was read.

The 33-year-old was not present later Tuesday as a different court weighed whether to release him on bail while he appeals his conviction. A decision on that issue was expected at a later date.

In a notice of appeal filed late last month, Mr. Grandine alleges both the motions judge and the trial judge made significant errors.

Mr. Grandine successfully challenged a manslaughter conviction in his first trial related to the death of his wife, and news of another appeal came as a shock to Ms. Grandine’s family, a friend said after the hearing.

“It’s a sad day for the family, because they have to relive this horrible thing over again,” Cliff McDowell said outside court.

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“There’s no closure today. There’s no rest for the family today. And this monster gets to play the system again.”

Ms. Grandine was 29 years old and 20 weeks pregnant when she drowned in the couple’s bathtub in 2011.

Tests later revealed she had lorazepam, better known under the brand name Ativan, in her blood despite not having been prescribed it.

Justice McWatt ruled that Mr. Grandine deliberately and secretly sedated his wife so she wouldn’t stand in the way of his extramarital affair and love of pornography.

The judge rejected the defence’s argument that Ms. Grandine had taken the drug herself because she was depressed about her husband’s infidelity.

Court heard at trial that Mr. Grandine was forced to step down as pastor at a Baptist church in Toronto over his affair, and he began working in a nursing home. Justice McWatt said that’s where he procured the lorazepam.

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Another pastor agreed to provide marriage counselling services as long as Mr. Grandine gave up his mistress and pornography, terms Mr. Grandine accepted.

But Mr. Grandine secretly resumed his affair, which his wife eventually began to suspect, court heard.

A few days before her death, Ms. Grandine suddenly experienced a number of symptoms she could not explain and had to be taken to the hospital, court heard. She underwent several tests, but was released because her symptoms faded, court heard.

She drowned in the bathtub a few days later, and investigators later tested her blood samples from the hospital, which were then found to contain Ativan.

In delivering her sentence Tuesday, Justice McWatt said Mr. Grandine was motivated by greed and an ill will towards his wife.

“His behaviour was diabolical and violent. It was planned and premeditated and took place not just on the night of her death, but days before when he experimented with the lorazepam on her and on himself to see what the effects of the drugs would be,” the judge said.

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During trial, jurors were told they could convict Mr. Grandine if they found he surreptitiously drugged his wife with lorazepam or provided it to her; or if he knew she had taken it and did nothing to stop her from getting in the bath while under its influence.

At Mr. Grandine’s bail hearing later Tuesday, his lawyers argued the latter scenario should not have been left with the jury since the judge ruled there was no evidence to suggest Ms. Grandine had taken the drug herself.

The Crown, meanwhile, noted it was defence lawyers who raised the possibility that Ms. Grandine took the drug herself.

This was Mr. Grandine’s second trial in connection with the death of his wife. In the first, he was charged with first-degree murder but found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, however, found the judge in that case made an error in answering a question from the jury and ordered a second trial on the manslaughter charge.

That meant prosecutors in this trial were prohibited from alleging Mr. Grandine intended to kill his wife.

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