Fort Wayne man facing charge in toddler’s death to have May murder trial

Some of the family of Malakai Michael Garrett, 2, attended a hearing for a suspect in his killing while they wore T-shirts with the boy's image on them. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

A murder trial has been scheduled for a man charged in connection with the death of a 2-year-old boy who he took unresponsive to a Fort Wayne fire station.

Mitchell Vanryn, 27, faces charges of murder; aggravated battery, a Level 1 felony; and domestic battery death, a Level 2 felony. The lower the felony number, from 1 to 6, the more time a suspect can be sentenced for it.

Vanryn’s trial is set for May 15-17 in Allen Superior Court with a pretrial hearing April 13 before Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull.

Vanryn was charged in the death of Malakai Michael Garrett, 2, of Fort Wayne. The boy was taken by Vanryn to Fire Station No. 13, 6727 N. Clinton St., about 4:40 p.m. Nov. 29 and later died at a local hospital.

Vanryn, who lived with the boy’s mother, was taking care of the child while his mother worked, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case. An autopsy found the boy had severe injuries to his 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, according to the Allen County coroner’s office.

Several of Garrett’s family members were in the courtroom for Vanryn’s hearing, with some wearing T-shirts depicting the boy as an angel. They also had written “#Justice4Malakai” on the Courthouse Green sidewalks.

Margaret Easterly, Garrett’s great-grandmother, who was in court Wednesday to hear Vanryn’s trial setting, said outside the courtroom that the boy had bruises on him when she last saw him Oct. 29, a month before his death, and that the Department of Child Services would have seen them, too. She and other family members said they are hoping for more charges to be filed in the case.

Prosecutor Karen Richards’ chief of staff, Robyn Niedzwiecki, said earlier this month she could not comment on an online campaign that’s seeking to have another person charged in the boy’s death. More than 7,300 people had signed the #justiceformalakai” petition at Change.org. Although the petition is aimed at the Fort Wayne Police Department, police spokesman Michael Joyner said it would be up to the prosecutor’s office to file charges.

Petition organizer Destiny Lake said it got over 100 signatures in the first 20 minutes. Wednesday afternoon it had nearly 7,400 signatures.

Lake lives in Portland and read about the case through her family and friends on Facebook.

“I have a 2-year-old myself,” she said. “I was just heartbroken by the news.”

As a single mother who works full time, the case shows how “it’s very scary leaving your kids with someone.”

She leaves her son with his father while she works.

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