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  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette The phrase “Justice for Malakai” is written in chalk Wednesday in front of Fire Station No. 1 on Main Street. Friends and family of Malakai Michael Garrett, 2, are spreading the message around town after his death.

Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am

Murder charged in death of boy, 2

Saw child bruised in October, relative says

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Family and friends want justice for Malakai Michael Garrett after the 2-year-old boy's accused killer was formally charged Wednesday.

Mitchell Vanryn, 27, the live-in boyfriend of Malaki's mother, was charged in Allen Superior Court with murder in the boy's death. Initially, Vanryn was charged with aggravated battery and domestic battery. Those charges were dismissed.

Malakai endured severe injuries to his internal organs consistent with multiple blows and strikes from a closed fist, a doctor at the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center told investigators.

According to court documents, on Nov. 29, Vanryn rushed the boy from 6902 Palmetta Court to the nearest fire station on North Clinton Street, according to a neighbor's home surveillance video.

From Fire Station No. 13, the toddler was taken to Parkview Regional Medical Center in critical condition and died that evening.

Malakai's great-grandmother Margaret Easterly said she was a witness to what was happening in the months preceding the boy's death.

The Sunday before Halloween, Easterly said she was driving with two of Malakai's cousins and stopped by the Palmetta Court home to see whether Malakai and his half-sister could join them for trick-or-treating.

When Malakai saw Easterly, he ran to the door, Easterly said.

“He had two black eyes, handprints on his neck, bruises on the side of his face,” Easterly recalled. “I asked, 'Why are his eyes black and blue?'”

Easterly said she was told Malakai had fallen in the bathtub.

Malakai begged to leave, Easterly said. “'I go with Granma.' He looked at me, 'I go you Granma,'” Easterly said, repeating her great-grandson's words.

Easterly, 58, said she sobbed as she drove off. “I called my daughter and I was hysterical. I was driving, and I couldn't hardly breathe.” 

After Easterly witnessed Malakai's condition, the family called attorneys and a court date was set for Dec. 12 for emergency custody, she said.

Friends have called attention to the case by opening a GoFundMe account under Justice4Malakai. The account is raising money to cover funeral and memorial costs.

Late Tuesday, friends gathered in front of the Allen County Courthouse and other downtown locations to write in chalk on sidewalks “Justice4Malakai.” One of the organizers, Trisha Cordwell Ohlwine, has organized a candlelight vigil for Malakai at 6 p.m. Sunday at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 1505 Bethany Lane.

Cordwell Ohlwine wrote to her followers on Facebook about the chalk-writing movement: “#justiceformalakai Write it on your sidewalk at home. Write it in your driveway. Let's paint this town with that baby boy's name. No matter what street you turn down you will see it. The city of Fort Wayne will know we the people want justice for Malakai!”

jduffy@jg.net