The aunt of the 7-year-old boy who died at the hands of his guardians said Chandler Grafner's short life was likely chaotic and included days without food in his final year of life.
Authorities said they believe Chandler likely died of starvation. There are still a lot of unanswered questions in the case, including why the many red flags of child abuse apparently went unnoticed.
Chandler died on Sunday after police found him in cardiac arrest in a locked closet. He was in the care of two people who are not his biological parents, both of whom were arrested and have now been charged with first-degree murder.
Jon Phillips, 26, and 21-year-old Sarah Berry remain behind bars at the Denver jail without bond.
Chandler's aunt, Stefanie Evilsizer, said the family is now fighting to regain custody of Chandler's 5-year-old brother, Dominick Phillips, who was placed in foster care earlier this week.
Evilsizer is the sister of Christina Grafner, the mother of the two boys. Evilsizer said she always spent a considerable amount of time with her nephew Chandler.
"I watched (my sister give birth to Chandler). And I was around him all the time, up until the past year," said Evilsizer.
That's when young Chandler's life apparently changed.
"Once Jon and Sarah got custody of him and Dominick, we kind of lost track of them. That wasn't supposed to happen, but it did," said Evilsizer.
"Chandler was beautiful and he was smart and he was outgoing. And he always wanted to be around people," she said.
What is perhaps most tragic about Chandler's short life is that in his final moments he was not around people, but rather in isolation inside a locked closet.
Now the Denver Children's Advocacy Center is coordinating a panel discussion to review Chandler's case, in hopes that this doesn't happen again.
"We need to be working together. Nobody can be working in isolation. We need to be working in partnerships, in true partnerships," said the executive director of the Denver Children's Advocacy Center, Dr. Gizane Indart. The panel discussion could happen as early as next week.
A trust in Dominick Phillips name has been established at First Bank under the name Stefanie Evilsizer. It is categorized as a memorial fund/benefit account.
Copyright Report a typo or inaccuracyIf you have a news tip or a follow-up to this story, e-mail us.Copyright 2011 by TheDenverChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.