A couple accused in the malnourishment death of a 7-year-old boy were formally charged Monday.
Jon Phillips, 26, and his girlfriend, 21-year-old Sarah Berry went before Judge Melvin Okamoto in back-to-back appearances, rather than together, at the request of their lawyers. Berry, handcuffed and wearing a shackle around her waist, sat on a bench at the side of the court room during the discussion about the documents, showing little emotion.
She was picking up paperwork at the clerk's desk as Phillips, also handcuffed, was brought into the room. They didn't appear to look at one another.
Each was charged with first-degree murder causing the death of a child under 12, first-degree murder after deliberation and child abuse resulting in death.
Prosecutors have said Phillips and Berry were caring for Chandler Grafner, who died on May 6 about 45 minutes after he was taken to the hospital.
The coroner has not ruled on the cause of death, but prosecutors have said Phillips and Berry "engaged in a pattern of conduct that resulted in the malnourishment and mistreatment of the child, causing his death, and that their conduct was intentional and deliberate."
Neither Phillips nor Berry was Chandler's biological parent, prosecutors said.
Family members of Chandler said the charges are justified
"I was really hoping they would ask for the death penalty, but it's my understanding they're not," said Chandler's grandmother, Sandra Younger. "So if they get life in prison without parole, I will feel like that's justice, too."
Denver Human Services is also investigating potential problems within the system that could have led to Chandler's death. That investigation is expected to be complete in two weeks. At that time the state will launch its own investigation.
Okamoto also turned down a request on Monday to unseal court records in the case.
The Denver Post had requested that the affidavits for the arrests of both Phillips Berry be made public along with documents supporting search warrants.
Lawyers for both Phillips and Berry opposed the move and Okamoto said he wanted to make sure that Phillips' new attorneys had time to get started on their investigation.
They will have a preliminary hearing on July 11, at which point the judge may revisit the motion to unseal the arrest affidavit.
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