Fort Wayne caregiver slapped unresponsive 2-year-old who later died, court records say

Vanryn (Courtesy of the Allen County Sheriff's Department)

A Fort Wayne man who was caring for his girlfriend’s son told authorities he slapped the boy because the child was unresponsive, but an autopsy found several internal injuries to the child, according to court documents. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Mitchell L. Vanryn, 27, has been arrested on preliminary charges of Level 1 felony aggravated battery and Level 2 felony domestic battery, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Allen Superior Court. Vanryn was convicted in 2015 of domestic violence in an unrelated case.

The Allen County Coroner’s Office has identified the boy as Malakai Michael Garrett, 2, of Fort Wayne. The boy was taken by Vanryn to Fire Station No. 13, 6727 N. Clinton St., at around 4:42 p.m. Wednesday and later died at a local hospital.

According to Allen Superior Court documents, the following allegedly occurred:

Vanryn was taking care of Garrett on Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. when Vanryn’s live-in girlfriend, the boy’s mother, left until the boy’s sister returned home at 4:10 p.m. The boy’s mother said the child was asleep when she left.

Vanryn said his son was at the home in the morning but left when he put Garrett down for a nap at 1 p.m. However, the boy was still not awake when the sister came home three hours later. He told the sister to go outside and jump on a trampoline, and he would be out shortly. However, Garrett “was unresponsive, his eyes were open and it was as if he was looking through him.”

He slapped the boy’s face and then put cold water on him in the bathtub but couldn’t get a response, Vanryn told authorities. He’s seen on a neighbor’s home surveillance video coming out of the house with the boy, who appears limp, in his arms at 4:43 p.m. He goes back into the home with the boy about 20 seconds later and comes back out with him at 4:46 p.m. He then takes him to the fire station.

Garrett was pronounced dead at Parkview Regional Medical Center at 6:16 p.m. by a doctor who told authorities he saw several bruises on the boy’s groin, front and back torso, both cheeks and the back of his head. Some of the bruises appeared to be 2-3 days old.

The bruises were corroborated by an autopsy that found severe injury to the boy’s internal organs, including his stomach, liver, small intestine and a lacerated pancreas that appeared to come from blows by a closed fist hours before his death.

The boy’s mother told authorities he had diarrhea, wasn’t eating, complained of pain to his head and had bruises on his face from falling.

Garrett’s death is the 36th homicide in Allen County for 2017.

In the unrelated case, Vanryn was charged in 2015 with domestic violence after striking a woman with a child’s car seat in front of their young son. He went through pretrial diversion in the case, according to electronic court records.

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