DENVER (CBS4) – A federal judge has made a decision that could bring justice to the family of a 7-year-old boy more than 4 years after his death.

Chandler Grafner died from starvation in 2007, but until now his family wasn’t allowed to sue county agencies and their employees for negligence in a child abuse case. A judge has now decided two employees of one of the agencies no longer have immunity from legal action.

The attorney who represents Grafner, Kyle Bachus, says the motion is a major change for the case. He believes it could affect all children who end up in the care of human services in Colorado.

Grafner died of starvation while living with foster parents Jon Philips and Sarah Berry, who are both serving prison sentences. Police say Grafner was kept in a closet with feces and urine in the couple’s apartment. He weighed just 34 pounds.

Jon Phillips and Sarah Berry (credit: CBS)

“I know it’s too late to bring Chandler back … but maybe it’s now to help a bunch of other kids,” Grafner’s grandmother told CBS4.

Grafner’s biological parents and an appointed representative tried to sue Jefferson and Denver counties, as well as two employees, for failing to properly investigate reports of abuse in the home.

Last April a federal judge ruled Denver and Jefferson counties’ human services could not be sued. Those agencies are an arm of the state government and have immunity. But now the child’s attorney says a new ruling says the employees are denied immunity.

Margaret Booker and Mary Peagler are named in a civil lawsuit.

“It’s the start of justice for Chandler,” Bachus said.

Bachus says the motion sends a message to case workers statewide.

“You’ve got to take care of these children,” he said.

Bachus say the lawsuit alleges Booker and Peagler knew of multiple abuse reports involving the foster parents and failed to investigate. Both women are still employed at Denver Human Services.

“That’s not the case workers I would want overseeing my child’s care,” Bachus said.

The Denver city attorney representing the two case workers didn’t return calls from CBS4.

Denver Human Services said they can’t comment on open litigation and because it’s a confidential matter.

Comments (13)
  1. littleinger says:

    This is a huge step in gaining justice for children.

    Statistically, children are much more likely to suffer abuse from “Foster care” than they are with parents. Hopefully this can set a precedent and Jo Nash-Conner and her son Quentin can FINALLY get Justice.

    DDHHS has destroyed and childhood for no good reason and trying to mitigate a sentence for Jo is much too little and WAY too late.

    I like to think there is a special place in hell for people who, in their self-righteous delusions destroy lives.

    Please. Someone pay the hell attention!

    1. Mad as hell says:

      This is from some one in the know,

      Both Christina and Kyle gave a rats a** about this boy. It is a cash cow for them. I miss Chandler and was very shocked to see what happened to hime and cried because I was helpless to help him. If these “biological parents” are allowed to cash in on a boy they allowed John and Sarah to just take with no regard to his saftey then; Christina did not even show up to court the day John sttod in front of a judge and took custody of him. If they get any money there will be no justice for Chandler only more anger and pain. Any money given should be completly donated to a charity.

      1. Drew says:

        I was thinking the same thing. Another thing that struck me as odd is how young the foster parents look in the mug shots. They look barely of legal age.

      2. Hmmmm says:

        @Mad….how very sad….I’m sorry for your loss. Obviously children are removed from their parents for a reason and the article does not go into that at all and just focuses on the caseworkers so I can’t comment on the reasons he was removed in the first place however, a caseworker has a duty to protect children and do their job and from the looks of it, that did not happen in this case. My question is if these women didn’t do their jobs…why are they still working there!? @little…I’m not sure where you get your statistics but they are wrong. Most children are abused by a parent or another person living in the home or someone who has regular access (in general). It does happen in foster care unfortunately but it’s rare…largely because there are so many caseworkers in and out (if theyre doing their jobs). I was a caseworker but in another state so I don’t know how things are in CO but here you have the primary caseworker, a foster adopt caseworker, and anyone else that might be tied to foster care benefits so you have more eyes on the child (ren). I don’t disagree that these women should be dealt with but lousy caseworkers are not the norm…they are just the ones you hear about the most. I think opening the door for frivilous lawsuits is a mistake….and as I mentioned above…why are these women still working for the State? That’s the part people should be concerned about!

  2. denvervet says:

    Well the root cause here is the biological parents not doing what they should have been doing and having their child put in foster care. Not to say that the system was totally wrong, because they were. I don’t think anyone here should profit one red cent.

    1. quite hones says:

      I totally agree with you. And the funny thing is there has never in 4 years been any mention of the biological father. But I can bet anything that now that the judge has made this decision he will be out there preaching what a great parent he was and how much he misses Chandler. He probably didn’t even know his son was in foster care probably until Chandler was gone. Very sad is what it is. And no one cared when they really should have been. God Bless You Chandler, you are an incredible angel.

      1. Amanda Lawson says:

        The biological father has been metioned… You are not keeping up on the case if you think it has not… There is alot more behind the story with the biological father then people are saying… I know im his sister… I was in the delivery room when Chandler was born and it is my fault she took him from my family… I am the one who lost it when she put another mans name on the birth certificate and thats what cause her to run with my nephew…. So before you cast jusdgement get the whole damn story… No he did not know Chandler was not with that thing that wants to call herself female…

    2. well said says:

      Well said denvervet.

  3. quite honest says:

    Instead of instantly bashing the attorney for his efforts to make a dollar off of this case, take a look at the other cases he has handled that he did not receive any monies from. Remeber that not every time is about money. There is justice that at least this attorney has the courage to stand up and continue to fight for. Even 4 years later. And should there be any money that comes from this I am more then sure that these funds will be directed to resources that truly should be granted to continue to find ways so that another Chandler is not on any news site. If this judge sees thing as they should the only thing that will be happening is a lot of praying for knowing that GOD works even if it does take time. And now that this judge has stepped in I am more then sure a few people will face the rath of consequences. Lets just be thankful that someone did not give up on this angel. Thank you Mr. Bachus and all of your staff that continue to work for Chandler and his justice.

    1. anonymouse says:

      Kyle Bachus does nothing for anyone but Kyle Bachus. A broken clock is right twice a day, and in this case, he is arguing the right side of the case. But Kyle himself is a cold man with no care for anyone or anything but a dollar.

  4. maddog says:

    Sterilization, problem (future) solved.

  5. mystic says:

    Why in HELL are these two people still employed?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  6. Jimbo says:

    Children are put in foster care for various reasons. For example, if the parents are destitute and cannot provide an environment CPS deems suitable, or if the only parent of the child falls ill and can no longer care for them. CPS may decline to place the child with family members for stupid reasons. For example, they prohibit children from sharing a room with a child of the opposite sex, and they prohibit the child from being placed in an environment where they don’t have a room or a bed. For example, if the only place for the child is a den or living room.

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