7-Year-Old Boy's Family Holds Private Funeral Service

Boy's Starving Death Raises Questions About System

Family members held a private funeral for the 7-year-old who died last week after officers found the starving boy in a locked closet.

A couple is accused in Chandler Grafner's malnutrition death. Jon Phillips, 26, and his girlfriend, 21-year-old Sarah Berry face charges of first-degree murder, causing the death of a child under 12, first-degree murder after deliberation and child abuse resulting in death.

Chandler's funeral was a small, private service held in Wheat Ridge. It lasted about an hour and a half at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

The case of alleged abuse has prompted investigations into potential problems within the system that could have led to Grafner's death.

Chandler's maternal grandmother told 7NEWS that the boy and his half-brother, Dominick, were taken from her and given to Phillips, who is Dominick's biological father.

Both Dominick and Chandler share the same mother but they were removed from her care because of her drug problem, their maternal grandmother, Sandra Younger, said.

Younger said that she fought for custody of the boys but lost. Dominick's biological father was given legal custody of both boys.

The Tennyson Center for Children in Denver currently has a total of 65 to 70 kids enrolled, many of whom have come from situations of abuse similar to Grafner's.

The Tennyson Center's CEO, Bob Cooper, said on average, children at the center have lived in six to seven different placements or homes.

"Anyone who works in this field lives with fear every day that the decisions they make about children can be life-and-death decisions," Cooper said. "These kids and these families sometimes live on the edge and have experienced some pretty hard knocks, and we're making decisions that impact that."

Cooper said the key to helping children is early intervention and then placing them back with loving families. "I haven't met a kid in 30 years who doesn't want to be at home with his (or her) family," said Cooper.

Cooper said most cases of abuse are also generational. He says the earlier professionals intervene, the better.

Chandler's 5-year-old brother has been placed in foster care. His family is fighting to regain custody of the boy.

Phillips and Berry are scheduled to be back in court in July.

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