Stop The Presses! There's Slipshod Reporting in Mormon Murder Case
Reasonable minds may differ on whether Doug Grant's guilty of killing his wife, Faylene, by drugging and drowning her at the couple's Gilbert home back in September 2001.
It's an understatement to call this case complex and odd. I mean, the county Medical Examiner couldn't even call it homicide (the manner of the 35-year-old Mrs. Grant's death officially remains "unidentified").
Still, enough has been said and written about the high-profile trial for any self-respecting journalist covering it in downtown Phoenix to at least get the basic details right. But that certainly wasn't the case last week, when Channel 3's Frank Camacho (the smiling chap in the photo) came by to observe the pivotal testimony of defendant Grant's current wife, Hilary.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez has been trying to prove that Doug Grant murdered Faylene to hook back up with Hilary, whom he had dated seriously after getting divorced from Faylene (Doug and Faylene remarried just two months before the alleged murder -- told you it was complicated).
Indeed, Doug and Hilary immediately did resume their relationship after Faylene's death and got married within weeks.They are still together, and are responsible for four children, one of Doug's sons with his first wife, the two sons he had with Faylene, and their own 5-year-old daughter, Nevaeh.
Martinez badgered Hilary on the witness stand over three days of testimony about every aspect of her quirky history with the defendant. Overall, she seemed to bear up well against a fierce adversary (Martinez) who's spent untold thousands of hours in courtrooms over the last quarter-century. Hilary came across as an honest woman who clearly was over her head in 2001 (she was just 20 at the time) when thrust into a dangerously strange love triangle with Doug and Faylene Grant.
Channel 3 aired a report by Camacho after Hilary's first day on the stand. It was his first appearance at the long trial. Mike Watkiss, the station's best reporter by a country mile, was downstairs covering the Serial Shooter case and the testimony of defendant Dale Hausner, which accounted for Camacho's presence.
In his standup, Camacho told thousands of viewers that Hilary Grant had "admitted to a late-night rendezvous with [Grant] the night Faylene died." At that meeting, according to Camacho, Hilary also had conceded to jurors that Grant had grabbed her hips at the secret meeting and told her "how much he missed these." Finally, the reporter claimed that testimony revealed that Hilary had engaged in an affair with Doug Grant "while he was married" to Faylene.
All of that reporting was inaccurate: Hilary did not admit to any such rendezvous on that night and adamantly denied under Martinez's relentless questioning that Grant had grabbed her hips (that allegation comes from an ex-friend of Hilary's named Kari Handley, whose testimony will be described in future reports). Finally, for the record, the prosecution has presented no evidence that Grant and Hilary dated before he and Faylene broke up in the spring of 2000, or even that the pair saw each other after the short remarriage in July 2001.
We have no clue how Camacho got it so very wrong. Mike Watkiss was back on the case last Friday, and did a fine report that described the myriad "farewell letters" penned by Faylene shortly before her bizarre and tragic death. It wasn't a one-sided report. It was fair. And accurate.