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Friday, July 19, 2019 11:15 am

Mother sentenced to 6-year term in neglect case

Matthew LeBlanc | The Journal Gazette

Calling the case shocking, an Allen County judge ordered a Fort Wayne woman today to spend six years in prison for neglecting her children -- one of whom was beaten to death by a caretaker.

Amber V. Garrett, 27, was charged with two counts of felony neglect after Malakai Garrett, 2, was killed in 2017.

Mitchell Vanryn, Garrett's boyfriend at the time, was convicted at trial in March of aggravated battery and domestic battery in the boy's death, but jurors acquitted him of murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Malakai suffered severe injuries in a beating in November 2017, and the doctor who performed an autopsy said internal organs "were shredded."

In court this morning, Dr. Scott Wagner repeated a statement he made at Vanryn's trial that the boy's injuries were equivalent to falling from a three-story building.

"Internally, this is the worst case I've seen for a blunt-force injury to a child," said Wagner, who has performed hundreds of autopsies.

Amber Garrett was not home when her son was beaten, but court documents and evidence submitted in a 2-hour sentencing hearing this morning indicate she knew about the abuse. Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel and Liza Anglin of the Fort Wayne Police Department, the lead detective on the case, pointed to text messages between Amber Garrett and Vanryn.

"Malakai just got the belt pretty good," one message from Vanryn to his girlfriend read.

One of the neglect charges was related to Malakai; the other, to Amber Garrett's daughter.

A plea agreement filed in June called for her to spend at least three years and up to six years in prison.

Defense attorney Anthony Churchward asked Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull to sentence his client to three years, arguing Amber Garrett suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has accepted responsibility for the crimes.

Gull, though, said bruises visible on the boy should have prompted Malakai's mother to action.

"For you to turn a blind eye to that ... is beyond comprehension," Gull said. "I cannot wrap my mind around you knew he was being hurt, and you chose to leave him there."

Amber Garrett wept through reading a statement offering "sincere apologies to everyone touched by Malakai's death."

"There's not a second that passes that I don't think about him," she said. "I wish more than anything I could change what happened."

mleblanc@jg.net