Colton Levi Clark

Dedicated to Colton Clark. Missing from Seminole, OK Since April 20, 2006. Looking for Truth and Justice for Colt.

Failing Chandler Grafner

Posted by KindraLore on October 1, 2008

Chandler Grafner

Chandler Grafner

One redundant fact of the short life of little Chandler Grafner is that almost everyone around him failed him.

Chandler Ashton Grafner was born on April 12, 2000 in Denver, Colorado; weighing only a little over three pounds. According to his Grandmother and Christina Grafner’s mother Sandra Younger, he was born prematurely due to the fact that Christina Grafner had a clotting disorder.

Chandler’s name on his birth certificate shows as Chandler Ashton McLain-Norris. His biological mother was Christina Grafner and according to the birth certificate, his biological father was Josh Norris. In news articles it states Josh was unaware that he even had a son until Chandler’s death.

In October 2004 the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services received a referral call regarding Chandler and his younger half brother, Dominic. According to the report, Chandler was four years of age and still not potty trained. He was still drinking from a bottle and had expressed fear of his “Dad” (referring to Jon Phillips who was living with Christina at the time and the father of his half brother Dominic.) Those allegations were considered unfounded and the case was closed in January 2005 with a risk level of medium.

In September 2005, Chandler who was then age five and a neighbor child, aged three were found walking in a busy intersection around 9:30AM in the morning. The children had been missing for almost an hour. Christina Grafner was charged with Child Abuse and pleaded guilty to this charge on November 2, 2005. She was placed on one-year probation and the case was closed a year later. The children were still residing with her.

For the remainder 2005, several referrals were made to DHS regarding the two boys and some of those calls were from Christina’s mother Sandra Younger. In December of 2005 Sandra Younger reported to DHS that Christina and the boys were no longer residing with her and had moved to Jefferson County. Because Jefferson County could not find a valid address for Christina and the boys, the assessment was closed.

In March of 2006, a Wheat Ridge police officer responded to a call of a vehicle blocking traffic. It was found that Christina Grafner appeared to be under the influence of cocaine or meth and found a crack pipe in her vehicle. Her two boys, Chandler and Dominic were in the vehicle with her at the time. They were not in car seats and were not wearing shoes and according to the officer looked neglected. He noted that Chandler looked extremely thin and it was found that the boys had not eaten in at least a day (some reports state three days). The officer also noted that Chandler’s teeth were decayed. (This was probably Bottle Rot since he was drinking a bottle at least until the age of four years old).

Christina Grafner

Christina Grafner

Christina was arrested and DHS signed temporary custody to the Grandmother, Sandra Younger. The placement with Ms. Younger did not last long however because when an assessment of the home uncovered that Sandra Younger allowed unsupervised visits with Christina, which violated the court order. It also found that Sandra Younger was transporting the children without a legal driver’s license and insurance and did not provide car seats for the children. In addition, Ms. Younger was found to be living with someone with a criminal history.

The Jefferson County DHS was granted temporary custody of both Chandler and Dominic. A treatment plan was devised for both Christina Grafner and Jon Phillips. In the meantime DHS placed the boys with Phillips, with the approval of Sandra Younger.

Sandra withdrew her support however when Jon Phillips no longer allowed visitation between her and the boys which was part of the agreement written out by DHS.

Sandra Younger

Sandra Younger

Christina Grafner did not abide by any of the plan DHS laid out and according to an investigative assessment into DHS and the role they played in Chandler’s death, critical mistakes were made in placing the children with Phillips as well.

Red flags flew when he was hard to get in touch with, never responded to numerous calls or were not present for home visits. Neither he nor his common law wife Sarah Berry ever signed the Treatment Plan devised by DHS.

Still, the adoption proceeded and in January of 2007 it was finalized. Christina Grafner was not present during any court proceedings regarding custody nor was the biological father Josh Norris notified. In that same month DHS was notified by the Denver Public School system of possible abuse of Chandler. A bruise on his neck and a black ear was noticed and when asked he stated his father Jon Phillips smacked him while he was in the shower.

In later testimony Dominic would describe the showers. He described how Phillips and Berry gave the boys baths when they were good and what he called “mean showers” when they were bad.  And he said “There were other days, when Chandler would be bad, he was in the closet.’  How often was he in the closet, the detective asked?  “A lot of times,” the little boy replied.

DHS did follow up on the report and came to the school the following day. However Jon Phillips held Chandler out of school that day. Initial attempts to contact him failed and when DHS was finally able to meet up with Chandler and his family it was a full five days later after the initial incident.

At that time the caseworker described the child’s injuries as less than severe than the school system reported (of course it was, it had time to heal) and Chandler then told the case worker that he had slipped and fell in the shower.

Jon Phillips

Jon Phillips

Jon Phillips and Sarah Berry stated that they believed the report to be a retaliatory one since they had conflicts with the school. Chandler was quickly taken out from public school and once again DHS received another referral from the school stating that Chandler had not been to school in a month.

Since they found no abuse or neglect in the allegations, DHS did not follow up with the family to see why Chandler no longer attended school.

On Sunday, May 6, 2007 the Denver Police Department responded to a 911 call at the Phillips Berry residence. Prosecutors would later determine that both Berry and Phillips waited hours before calling 911 in order to dispose of evidence of their abuse of the child.

According to the evidence in testimony as well as the words of Chandler’s little brother Dominic, seven-year-old Chandler was held imprisoned in a closet where he was made to urinate, defecate, live and sleep there. When authorities found him, he weighed only 34 lbs. He was seven.

According to reports he begged Dominic for food but Dominic was afraid he too would be in trouble and could not get him anything. Among the damning evidence presented during the trial was a cell-phone call in which Berry asked Phillips what to do after Chandler became so desperate for water that he threatened to escape from the closet, get a knife and kill them both if they didn’t give him a drink. That call was made nine days before Chandler died.

Chandler was described as looking like a concentration-camp prisoner and was covered with 20 to 25 bruises and abrasions.

The closet was described a space no larger than an oven. Hours after Chandler had died but before 911 was called Phillips and Berry ripped up and disposed of the feces-encrusted carpet and other evidence from the linen closet in the dumpster that police later discovered.

During the trial of Sarah Berry, Dr. Nancy Krebs, director of nutrition at Children’s Hospital, testified that the severity of Chandler’s dehydration would have taken one to two weeks without drinking any or very little fluids.

Krebs said Chandler showed all the classic signs of dehydration and starvation, including a severe deficiency of vitamin C, or scurvy, which caused his fingernail beds to bleed before he died. Chandler also suffered from a severe deficiency of niacin, or vitamin B3, which caused his skin to flake off or develop lesions.

“It is quite apparent that he was quite ill,” she said. “I can’t say if he was able to walk or not, but if he could, it wouldn’t be very fast or very far because of the loss of muscle in his legs. “His hands and feet would have been cold because his body was trying to conserve energy. He would have had very little desire to move around.”

Chandler died of a cardiac arrest.

Today in a plea agreement, 23-year-old Sarah Berry was sentenced to 48 years behind bars. The agreement was so that little Dominic would not have to testify at the trial.

Sarah Berry Sentencing

Sarah Berry Sentencing

Jon Phillips was convicted August 12, 2008 of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.

Since the death of Chandler Grafner, Colorado Department of Human Services has investigated this case and what went wrong and have made provisions so that hopefully will prevent a rerun of this happening to another child.

According to news reports Sandra Younger is petitioning the courts for custody of Dominic who currently remains in DHS custody. Biological mother, Christina Grafner is pregnant once again and due in October. She is also trying to gain visitation rights to Dominic.

Also according to a news article, Christina Grafner and Josh Norris plan to seek $150,000 each — the maximum penalty allowed under state law, according to the letter sent Oct. 29, 2007 by Denver law firm Bachus & Schanker. The letter also names the boy’s younger half-brother, Dominic, as a claimant. I could not find any other information regarding this claim.

And lastly, a year after Chandler Grafner’s death, his grave still had no headstone. Rocky Mountain News readers had agreed to pay for the headstone but the family could not agree on whether to allow donors to buy one, nor have they themselves.

It seems they are still failing Chandler Grafner.

News Articles and Sources:

48 years for child’s starvation!
Starving boy ‘forgotten in death’
Starved Denver boy’s parents plan to sue agencies

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10 Responses to “Failing Chandler Grafner”

  1. Annie143 said

    There are some errors in this report. Tina’s sister has Dominick and has had him since December, I think. Mrs. Younger is not seeking custody.

    The headstone is in place, finally.

    Efforts are now being made to pay for his memorial at the school, a play area called Castle Chandler. He loved to draw castles.

    The Denver News Channel has a wonderful interview with his teacher with some lovely pictures.

    Social services failed him completely and should pay the price. His bio parents are nothing.

    Thanks for bringing this to everyones attention. We are also trying to get people together to work for Chandlers law so that this will hopefully not happen again.

  2. Thank you Annie. In news reports I had read, it just stated Dominick was still in custody of DHS. As far as Sandra Younger seeking custody, I have tried to find the article but one did state she was. Whether its true or not, I cant say.

    I heard about the memorial. That’s wonderful. I will check the pictures out and link it here.

    You are right about Social Services failing Chandler. It seems to happen more times than not. I do hope they have revamped the way these cases are treated so this can be prevented in the future.

    I am glad Chandler finally has a headstone. It reminded me a lot of the Ricky Holland case. He deserves dignity at least in death since he was given none in life.

    Thank you again for your comments. Can you tell what Chandlers Law is?

    Respectfully,
    KindraLore

  3. regarding chandlers grafner law should be passed and i’m in full support of this law, and social services should be brought up on charges of murder in the first degree since they responsible for his death what they did is unforgivable. social services has to much power !!!and they abuse it.the social services should pull thier head’s out thier asses. and pay attention wake up colorado!!!! this is an epidemnic and an ever growing one. and to the state senators please do something befor it’s to late oh wait a minute it’s already happend to the sweetest little boy. when i seen this on myspace alll i did was cry!!! this is what going on with my family. only they removed my sick grandson. from the hospital after kidney surgery and threntend my husband an myself to put kidnapping charges on us. i am holding a protest on the west step’s of the capital please join me !!! you can e-mail me at geriannemuniz@yahoo.com thank you hope to see you there

  4. Annie143 said

    I am so sorry that I never got back to you about Chandlers Law. It never got off the ground, unfortunately. It was to require the law to make a more thorough investigation when there are complaints about a child and then they disappear from school, even with the adults saying they are being homeshcooled. I do not understand why more credence is not given to speaking to the child alone and in a safe atmosphere when someone has complained about abuse.

    RIP Chandler and all the other innocent children who are abused, neglected and murdered by subhumans.

    • Shawna-e said

      Dear Annie 143,
      I would like to get involved in promoting Chandler’s Law. My name is Shawna Wilkinson- Earnest. I have recently started a cause on Facebook called For Nevaeh. I am trying to fight against child abuse/ child predators in any way I can. I have not started a non-profit organization yet but am planning on it. This story of little Chandler broke my heart! I posted a video about him on my cause site. These crimes are horrific and I want to help in any way I can to put an end to it. Maybe we can work on getting Chandlers Law going again. With media like Facebook, Myspace, etc… It is easier to gather more supporters. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you and/or the individuals responsible for putting together Chandlers Law. shawnaearnest@yahoo.com

  5. Ruth said

    I am a social worker in Ohio. I worked indirectly with a CPS agency as a development specialist. I had mutual clients and often heard families say their worker never showed for visits. A guardian ad litum also told me that some of the families she met with told the same story. Two specific workers were named but their supervisor would not acknowledge the possibility, they were close friends. Case notes were written on visits that never happened. Although no child has been hurt that I know of, I am sure it will and it will be the workers word against who ever advocates for the child. It seems, at least in this one agency, there are no checks/balances to ensure children are actually being seen.

  6. K said

    I remember being with Tina when she was in labor…. I remember getting the call, letting me know that her baby boy was born…. I’ll never forget… I remember cracking a “lame” joke during the amnio…. “I guess in this case…. size does matter!” as a way to ease the tension and divert tension to the lighter side of what otherwise is a frightening experience…. Tina used to babysit my kids and she was a wonderful sitter… my SO and I loved her…. we also lived next door to her. I cannot imagine the heartbreak she’s feeling. I only made the connection this afternoon as I was going through some old spiral notebooks. I hope that something happens to completely reform social services! They are a horrid group of power-hungry “people” looking to use children and families to make a quick buck. My only regret is that I lost touch with Tina.

  7. Annie143 said

    it heartens me to see that people remember Chandler even now. I will never forget him. Some things did change as the result of Chandlers death but not near enough. I have stayed in touch with a family member and occasionally know how Dominick, his brother, is doing. Apparantly, he is doing very well in school and, the last I knew, was still in counseling. I always remember him in my prayers.

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