DENVER - The Colorado Court of Appeals has ordered a new sentence for a man convicted of starving a 7-year-old to death while forcing him to spend his last days locked in a closet without food or water.
The court ruled Thursday that consecutive sentences of life in prison for Jon Phillips on his convictions of first-degree murder and 48 years for fatal child abuse are improper because the charges were based on the same evidence in the May 2007 death of Chandler Grafner.
The court ruled that the sentences should be served at the same time.
The ruling is expected to have little impact because of his life sentence.
On May 6, 2007, Grafner was found at his foster parents' home. He had been locked without food or water in a closet infested with his own urine and feces, a court said. He was taken to the hospital where he died shortly thereafter.
The 7-year-old weighed only 31 pounds when he died of dehydration and starvation, the coroner said.
Phillips and his girlfriend Sarah Berry had been appointed as Grafner's legal guardians. Berry was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
The deaths of Grafner and at least 44 other children being overseen by the Colorado child welfare system over five years led to the creation of a state watchdog program.
Between Jan. 17 and April 17, 2007, the Denver Department of Human Services received at least four written complaints about abuse or neglect involving Grafnr, a Denver judge found.
On April 17, 2007, school officials said they informed the Denver Human Services that Grafner had not been in school since March 9 and that the school had been unable to reach Grafner's foster parents for weeks, according to court records.
Grafner's biological mother and father have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against two Denver social workers involved in the boy's case.