Trial Blog: Brother Draws Boy's 'Screams' For Food, Water
Defense Witness Says Chandler Seemed Fine During Supervised Visits
Last Updated: 1746 days ago
4:17 p.m. Defense called its next witness, Edward S. Wilson III, a licensed psychologist who works predominantly with children and adolescents. He works with children and adolescents each week and it makes up about 80 percent of his practice, which is located in Delaware. He is a forensic interviewer of children.Chandler's brother is in the "pre-operational" phase of thinking development, he said. That is, he has a limited view on the world, including not thinking multi-directionally, according to Wilson."Centration of thought" often comes with children about the age of Chandler's brother, he said."They learn something and everything goes into that [category]," Wilson said. He gave an example of a mother explaining to a child that a cow is different from a dog, yet the child continues to put the cow in the same category as a dog. This can also be called "blending subjects.""You have to be wary, that's what you're getting," said Wilson."The only way of framing things, is what they've learned," according to Wilson. "They [children] will respond to situations from their perspective.""The younger the child, the more suggestible the child is," said Wilson. "It is a fairly well-accepted doctrine."
3:45 p.m. The prosecution begins questioning the social worker.She said that the goal was to put the children with a parent. She was in the home for various supervised visits."(Jon Phillips) knows that someone has their eyeballs on how he treats these children, right?" asked the prosecutor.She said that yes, Phillips knew when the social worker would be coming to the house for a supervised visit. The last home visit was in Jan. 11, 2007.During her visits, there weren't any surveillance cameras mounted in the corners of the living room, she said.The prosecutor showed several pictures taken during the investigation, such as air fresheners, food scattered around the home, and dirty rooms. He asked the social worker if that would have ever caused her concern. She responded, "yes.""Did you ever see any work being done on the closet doors in that apartment?" asked Prosecutor David Lamb. "No," she said.She reports that she never saw any signs of bruises on Chandler during her term of protective supervision.
3:33 p.m. According to Nemecek, "Mr. Phillips also has very good parenting skills." She stated that Phillips did well with "setting limits" for the boys. She never saw inappropriate discipline for the children.She saw Phillips bring food, such as sandwiches, to the children during her visits.He called her over the course of the nine-month observation period for advice, she said.
3:10 p.m. During a checkup visit from Nemecek in July of 2006, the children were "doing well." Chandler was "excited to show off that he had learned his days of the week," she said.Phillips' home looked normal throughout the summer, and she didn't see anything "unsafe" in the home, the social worker said.On a visit to Phillips' home on Nov. 13, 2006, the boys "were doing awesome," she said. Chandler sang her songs that he was going to sing at school for Thanksgiving. She didn't see anything that suggested a problem at the home.During Christmas time, the boys were excited to show her their own Christmas tree in their bedroom. She didn't see anything that concerned her.Phillips gave the impression that he was ready "to be done" with observations from the social workers and was excited for the children to live with him, she said.
2:50 p.m. Court resumes after a recess.A social worker, Alysee Nemecek, from Jefferson County takes the stand on behalf of the defense.She was assigned the case of Chandler and his brother as the case was ongoing. She said that Jon Phillips was not involved at all with the children when she took the case.Nemecek learned about Phillips in early April 2006 because he is the father of Chandler's brother. During the first supervised visitation, she witnessed "appropriate" behavior between the boys and Phillips."They ran up to him, they hugged him, they sat on his lap," she said.After May 18, the boys were placed with Phillips and Berry.
2:15 p.m. Court is in recess while defense gets their evidence ready for presentation.
2:12 p.m. The defense finishes questioning Ellis. Problems from previous foster homes come up, including the brother's problem with "tattle-tailing."Prosecution then redirects. The prosecution asks if the brother had been "trained" to tattle by Phillips and Berry. The prosecution has finished presenting all of its evidence and witnesses.The defense begins their presentation of their evidence.
1:45 p.m. Trial resumes after lunch break.The mental health therapist for Chandler's little brother is still on the stand and is questioned by the defense.Tammie Ellis defined the brother's initial trauma as Chandler dying, not as his parents being gone. Originally, according to Ellis, the boy said his parents didn't do anything."I asked him why his mom and dad were in jail," said Ellis. He responded by saying his parents did bad things. "They didn't take care of me and made me eat fish," the boy told her.The defense picked back up with the boy's "Something Bad Happened to Me" book. Ellis said that the boy finished putting entries in the book, "putting his trauma into the book, " near the end of 2007."It would appear that his focus became on placement issues," said Ellis.These placement issues dealt with more current things, such as where he was going to be living, not past problems. The defense associated the end of his book with the moving of the boy to his aunt and uncle's home.
12:03 p.m. Trial breaks for lunch, it will resume at 1:30 p.m.
11:40 a.m. Defense questions Ellis.Ellis is asked if she questions the accuracy of the trauma her patients express. She said that was not part of her job. The defense questioned if there were other sources of trauma in the brother's life."I'm not sure we will ever know all of the trauma he has been through in his life," said Ellis.The defense asked if Chandler's brother had ever displayed sexualized behavior. She said, "yes."The defense asked if there are any other records taken of each therapy session. Ellis responded, "no." All of her notes are taken during or after the session without any other witnesses, she said.The defense then asked about other instances of trauma in the brother's life, including his removal from his mother's home and previous foster care.Ellis said that the boy has recognized that his parents, Phillips and Berry, were in jail and that "bad people go to jail." He also mentioned that he missed his parents.
11:30 a.m. During a session on Aug. 6, 2007, Ellis reported that the brother talked about the day that Chandler died. The boy said that he remembered that he woke up to Chandler on the couch who had "puked a little bit." He said his parents had told him to stay in his room and they were putting the couch back together.He mentioned a box. He said that, "Mommy and Daddy took the box out to the Dumpster." He said that the box had come from the closet and the box had gone to the Dumpster. He also said that a blanket had also gone out to the Dumpster.He said that Phillips and Berry had called the hospital. On the way to the hospital, Berry and Phillips had told the boy that "his big brother had died."On Sept. 4, 2007, the boy drew a picture of Chandler. Ellis described what she said was Chandler in the picture. She said he looked "very skinny" in the drawing. In the picture, the young boy also drew squiggly lines. He told Ellis that those squiggly lines were "Chandler's screams."
11:15 a.m. In another session with Ellis, the brother drew a picture of Chandler and himself in the closet."I am in the closet with Chandler. We are in the closet with the doors closed because we are in trouble," the boy told Ellis.The boy asked Ellis if her parents had ever done that to her. She told him that it "wasn't safe." She said he was surprised and that he couldn't believe that not every parent did that.In a session during late October, the boy said he saw "a red mark on Chandler's butt" and reported that it had come from Jon Phillips while Chandler was in the shower. She asked if it had ever happened to him and he said "no."In a Nov. 5, 2007, session, the brother was asked if Chandler ever got food. The brother said that "his brother often asked for food and his brother was hungry," said Ellis.The boy told her Chandler had asked to get out of the closet many times and "sometimes his parents would let him get out of the closet and sometimes they wouldn't."
11 a.m. During another session on July 3, 2007, Ellis explained that while playing with a doll, the younger brother placed his doll in the "closet.""Did you know my big brother drank bleach water?" the boy asked her. According to Ellis, the comment came "out of the blue." He said Chandler drank it because Berry would not let him have any water.In a session on Aug. 9, 2007, Ellis and the boy talked about remembering his family. They talked about showers at home. The boy had told Ellis that they had to take cold showers when they were bad.The boy also reported that Phillips and Berry would "make him eat fish" and he, and Chandler, who was also ate the fish, would vomit it up. He reported that he and Chandler were then forced to eat the fish and vomit mixture.Evidence was brought forth, and the prosecution revealed a book that the boy had worked on while in therapy -- "Something Bad Happened."In the book, there are a collection of drawings by the boy about his family. The prosecution presented a specific picture of the boys in the shower. The boy drew Chandler as "sad."The boy dictated to Ellis what was going on in the drawing.In another picture, the boy drew himself disliking fish. The picture includes Chandler with a "straight face, not 100 percent happy or sad."The boy's words, as dictated to Ellis, are on the top of the paper. He talked about his parents making him eat fish and he would vomit up the fish. He also said that he would have to eat the vomit and fish mixture.
10:43 a.m. She talked about the boy mentioning the relationship Chandler had with Jon Phillips on a specific therapy session.During the session, he mentioned his brother "dying." He said that Chandler had gotten sick. He brought up that Chandler had "lied and stole things a lot" and had been "bad" at home. He mentioned that Chandler had "stole a piece of pizza."The brother was ordered by Phillips to tell them if Chandler had done something "bad" so after Chandler stole pizza, the boy told his parents about it. That night, Phillips brought home a yellow ball as a reward for the boy telling on Chandler, he said.The boy told Ellis "when Chandler stole food he had to go to the closet." He said his parents, who he identified as Sara Berry and Jon Phillips, put Chandler in the closet with the door closed, the boy told Ellis.The boy also reported that he too had been in the closet and described it as "dark and scary."She talked about the boy remembering how Chandler had to go to the bathroom while in the closet.
10:20 a.m. Jury back in courtroom.Witness Tammie Ellis is on the stand. She is a mental health therapist. She works specifically with young children who have experienced trauma.She has worked with Chandler's half brother. They began working together May 10, 2007, for multiple times a week."My job is to help a child heal," said Ellis. "That is what my goal is in my relationship with (the boy)."In early therapy sessions, the boy identified Sara Berry and Jon Phillips as his parents and Chandler as his "big brother."
9:55 a.m. Morning recess. Trial resumes at 10:15 a.m.
9:50 a.m. The police DNA expert, Detective Shawn O'Toole, is cross examined by the defense. They tried to ask if he could definitively identify the fecal matter on the mattress as fecal matter coming from Chandler Grafner. He said he could not.However, under questioning by prosecution, he explained that the fecal material had Grafner's DNA mixed in it. He said it was a human-specific process to determine this DNA, and that the DNA did not come from the cat.
8:59 a.m. Trial resumes. Shawn O'Toole is questioned by the defense. O'Toole allowed technicians to analyze DNA.He is questioned about the lower shelf in the linen closet. O'Toole then approaches the flat screen in the courtroom to specifically reference the pictures. He points out stains on the closet door that he took samples from.O'Toole said he took samples from the carpet, closet door, and mattress discarded in the Dumpster. He said that he then ran those samples for the presence of DNA.O'Toole said he did two different extraction processes on each sample. He said he looks for 13 genetic markers. Grafner's DNA was present in the closet, in the feces found in the closet but he can't say if the fecal matter is human.He said samples from the carpet, air mattress, and door belonged exclusively to Chandler Grafner.
- August 6, 2008: Phillips Trial Blog: Photos Show Skeletal Boy With No 'Fat Padding'
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- August 4, 2008: Philips Trial Blog: Food Used As Punishment
- August 1, 2008: Boy: Starving Brother Had Timeouts In Closet
- July 31, 2008: Doctor Says Abused Child Was 'Skin And Bones'
- July 30, 2008: Police: Guardian Starved Boy To Death, Locked Him In Linen Closet
- March 10, 2008: Head Of Denver Human Services Resigns
- March 10, 2008: Denver Human Services To Undergo Review
- March 8, 2008: Report: Welfare Workers' Morale Low After Children's Deaths
- March 7, 2008: Review Details Problems With Denver Human Services
- February 22, 2008: Human Services Supervisor Placed On Leave After Report
- January 16, 2008: State Human Services To Review 12 Child Deaths
- January 10, 2008: Mother of Dead Baby Says Human Services Failed Her
- January 8, 2008: Questions Surround Human Services After Child's Death
- November 5, 2007: Pair Accused Of Starving Boy Won't Get Separate Trials
- September 6, 2007: Questions Linger About Response To Starving Boy
- August 28, 2007: State Releases Report On Boy's Starvation Death
- August 16, 2007: Police: Boy Looked Like 'Concentration Camp Prisoner'
- July 12, 2007: Brother Says Boy Starved In Closet
- July 10, 2007: Coroner: 34-Pound Boy Died Of Starvation
- June 29, 2007: Investigators: Warning Signs Before Boy's Death
- May 16, 2007: 7-Year-Old Boy's Family Holds Private Funeral Service
- May 11, 2007: Aunt Says Family Will Fight For Custody Of Chandler's Brother
- May 10, 2007: Couple Charged With Murder For Allegedly Letting Boy Starve
- May 9, 2007: Couple Face Murder Charges In Malnourished Boy's Death
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