DCS reports reveal history of abuse leading up to death of toddler

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Malakai Garrett

New documents released by the Department of Child Services obtained by WANE 15 News reveal that the agency had been called to Amber Garrett’s home for reported child abuse and neglect five times before her 2-year-old son Malakai was beaten to death last year.

Garrett’s ex-boyfriend, Mitchell Vanryn, is charged with Murder related to the Nov. 29 beating death of Malakai. Garrett faces felony neglect charges.

Police were called to a Palmetta Court home, in the Crestwood Colony neighborhood off North Clinton Street on Fort Wayne’s north side that Wednesday evening around 5:45 p.m. A short time later, Malakai was dropped off at a nearby fire station.

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.

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

Here are the documented reports that involved Malakai Garrett before his death:

The earliest report that would have involved Malakai Garrett was made in 2016. At the time Amber Garrett and her then-husband Lantz Garrett were in the process of finalizing a divorce. Despite multiple reports of abuse and neglect in the home, a DCS caseworker allowed Malakai Garrett and his older sister to remain in Amber Garrett’s care, citing a lack of evidence to support allegations

July 18, 2016, DCS received a report after police were called during a verbal argument between Lantz and Amber in front of the children. Amber told police she tried to get Malakai out of Lantz’s arms but he shoved her away. Lantz reportedly told police that the incident was all verbal and no one was physically touched. At the time, Lantz expressed concerned that he would not be able to see their son again. He said divorce paperwork had been filed and he filed for emergency custody of Malakai. 

September 12, 2016, a report was made to DCS following an argument between Amber Garrett and Lantz Garrett who were in the process of getting a divorce. The police were called after an altercation between the two when Lantz showed up at the home unannounced. The children were sleeping at the time and did not witness the incident occur. A caseworker determined allegation of neglect made by Lantz were unsubstantiated. 

Nov. 12, 2016, Malakai’s father took him to Kosciusko Community Hospital in Warsaw because Malakai, who was a year old at the time, had severe diaper rash that he said occurred while in Amber Garrett’s care. He believed Amber was neglecting their son. At the time Lantz reported sores on his face, bruises on his left leg, an on his side and back.

Oct. 29, 2017, complaint was reported to DCS regarding bruises, black eyes and injuries on Malakai’s face. It was reported that Malakai’s older sister expressed that “daddy Mitch” hit Malakai. There was concern that pictures of Malakai posted on social media showed marks on his face, a busted chin and bruising around his neck. According to the DCS assessment, a caseworker observed dark circles under his eyes and a scratch above his lip. However, Amber and Mitchell Vanryn said that he fell in the shower and had stitches. They told the caseworker she did not know why he had markings on his eyes but said he often “plays rough.” The caseworker noted that Malakai appeared to be slim but did not look malnourished. A DCS caseworker interviewed Malakai’s 6 year-old sister who sad said she was in the room when Malakai fell down in the shower and split his lip open. She described as she watched several people standing around her brother to give him stitches. The caseworker had difficulty understanding Malakai’s speech but noted that he visibly agreed with his sister when she stated that they were safe in their mother’s home and no one hurts them there. Both children reportedly said Mitch was nice to them. 

Malakai Garrett died a month later. His death came two weeks before an emergency custody hearing scheduled.

Following his death, Malakai’s sister was interviewed. During that interview she said she did not know how her brother died because she was outside on the trampoline. She said sometimes she gets spankings by her mom and by Mitch. Malakai only got spankings from Mitch, she said. She said the spankings hurt, but she does not get bruises but Malakai would get bruises on his bottom from the belt, spoon and hand. She said Malakai would only “pee or poop in his pants” when he was with Mitch. She said she thought Malakai was scared of him because he “doesn’t like being hit.”

She said that her mom and Mitch do fight with their words and when Mitch gets really angry he hits her mom “everywhere.” She told the caseworker that she did not like Mitch and that her mom thinks Mitch killed Malakai and her grandmother thinks that Mitch did something, too. 

The reports came in more than 400 pages released to WANE 15 by DCS last week after a public records request in December 2017.

A jury trial is scheduled for Amber Garrett on Nov. 27. It is scheduled to last four days. Mitchell Vanryn’s case is scheduled to go before a jury on Mar. 19.

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