Boyfriend sentenced in toddler’s death

Local News

The man arrested in the November 2017 death of his girlfriend’s toddler has been sentenced.

A judge on Tuesday sentenced Mitchell Vanryn to 40 years in prison after he was convicted of aggravated battery and domestic battery in the death of 2-year-old Malakai Garrett.

He was sentenced the maximum for each count, which is 40 and 30 years respectivelly, but they are served at the same time. 

In the courtroom, Malakai’s father Lantz Garrett read a statement to Vanryn. He said he wated so long for this day with many sleepless nights.

“You shredded my little boy inside and left him bleeding to death while you watched TV,” Garrett said. “You are weak and father to father, I hope for a slow and painful death for you.”

Garrett said he wished for the same justice for Vanryn that the 2-year-old got.

Garrett’s aunt echoed that, telling Vanryn that she prays he receives “the same wrath bestowed on Malakai.”

After a three-day trial in March, a jury found Vanryn not guilty of murder in the case. That was the jury’s decision. The sentence was Judge Fran Gull’s decision.

She said Vanryn is “a powder keg ready to go off.”

Gull added that in her 22 years on the bench, she has not seen such a horrific crime.

Vanryn did stand and speak to the family, telling them he his truly sorry and accepts responsibility in Malakai’s death, but it was not what he intended to do.

Before he was taken from the courtroom, he was served a subpeona to testify in Amber Garrett’s neglect trial in June. Because of that, he will stay in Allen County until that trial wraps up.

After Vanryn was taken away, Lantz Garrett told WANE 15 News that he was thankful for Fran Gull. 

“I think it home with the prosecution and the judge,” Garrett explained. “Everybody has little kids. Nobody deserves that.”

It was around 5:45 p.m. that late November day that police took a call from Vanryn’s Palmetta Court home, in the Crestwood Colony neighborhood off North Clinton Street on Fort Wayne’s north side. A short time later, young Malakai was dropped off at nearby Fire Station 13, along North Clinton Street.

From there he was taken to a hospital in critical condition where he died a short time later.

An autopsy determined that the toddler had extensive and severe bruising in numerous locations including his chest, abdomen, back, face and head. He also had severe injuries to internal organs including the liver, stomach, small intestine as well as a lacerated pancreas.

The doctor who performed the autopsy said that in his expert opinion, the injuries “were consistent with that of multiple blows and strikes from a closed fist punch,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week.

The Allen County Coroner’s Office ruled Malakai’s death a homicide.

Amber Garrett, Malakai’s mother who had been in a relationship with Vanryn, told police that Vanryn was the sole child care provider for him while she was at work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to approximately 4:30 p.m. According to the affidavit, on the day Malakai died, he was still asleep when she left for work at around 7:30 a.m.

She said the little boy had not been feeling well he night before and had bruises on his face from falling, the affidavit said. She also said he had been suffering from diarrhea, complained of pain to his head and not been eating, the affidavit detailed.

Vanryn told police that he had put Malakai down for a nap at around 1 p.m. and when the boy’s sister arrived home from school just after 4, he was still not awake, the affidavit said. Vanryn told the girl to go outside and jump on a trampoline and when he went to wake the boy up, he found him unresponsive, according to the affidavit.

Vanryn told police he then slapped the boy in the face and put cold water on him.

According to the affidavit, police viewed surveillance video from a neighbor that showed Vanryn running out of the home at 4:43 p.m. with Malakai, who appeared to be limp, in his arms. He then ran back into the home less than a minute later.

Three minutes later Vanryn left the home again to take Malakai to the fire station, the affidavit detailed.

The doctor who attended to Malakai at the hospital told investigators the boy’s body had bruises to the groin, torso, on his cheeks and the back of his head. The physician said the bruises appeared to be 2-3 days old.

Officer Michael Joyner of Fort Wayne Police Department said it was obvious to investigators that battery had occurred. After talking to the coroner, assessing bruises on the boy’s body, and interviewing Vanryn, investigators determined he is responsible for the physical abuse.

Vanryn was arrested the day after young Malakai died.

He stood trial in March. He was acquitted of murder in the case but found guilty of aggravated battery and domestic battery.

The decision focused on Vanryn’s intent and if he actually meant to kill the child. The defense argued there wasn’t evidence that he meant to kill Malakai as he worked to save his life. The prosecution said the damage done to his body was enough proof. 

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