Mother faces charges related to Fort Wayne boy’s homicide

Amber Garrett is accused of neglect in connection with her son's death. (Photo by the Allen County Sheriff's Department)

A woman faces neglect charges in connection with her son’s November homicide after text messages were recovered that allegedly detailed abuse to her by the suspect in her son’s death and a photo of injuries to the boy’s face taken a month before he died.

Amber V. Garrett, 26, of Fort Wayne faces two counts of neglect of a dependent, Level 3 and a Level 6 felonies, filed Monday in Allen Superior Court. The lower the felony number, from 1 to 6, the more time a convicted suspect can be sentenced for it.

Garrett, also known as Amber Unverzagt, is the mother of 2-year-old Malakai Garrett, who was rushed at 4:40 p.m. Nov. 29 to Fire Station No. 13, 6727 N. Clinton St., by Mitchell Vanryn after the child became unresponsive. The boy died later at a hospital.

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.

Vanryn was charged with murder along with several other charges in the boy’s death.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed against Amber Garrett, the following is the basis for the charges:

Garrett allegedly allowed Vanryn, her live-in boyfriend, to provide child care for Malakai and his sibling while she worked 40 hours a week. Vanryn moved in with the family last summer and the two allegedly communicated through text messages during the day.

A Fort Wayne Police detective collected a broken cell phone from a man who said he had bought it from Garrett. The phone was taken into evidence after the man contacted police when Garrett asked to buy it back. A photo taken Oct. 28 that came from the phone allegedly shows red blood spots called petechiae and redness around the boy’s eyes, a mark that resembles a bruise, and a healing injury on his lip.

Numerous text messages found on the phone allegedly discussed incidents of violence by Vanryn against Garrett, among them an August incident in which she tells someone “Vanryn threatened to ‘beat her (expletive)’ for calling the doctor about her son.” In another, she allegedly tells Vanryn “that her head still hurt from him pulling her from the back of her hair and refers to Mr. Vanryn kicking her while she was on the ground.” It also allegedly says he hit her in the stomach with a pool stick.

In another text, Garrett allegedly wrote that “Vanryn has threatened to kill her by slitting her throat and states that he has punched her on more than one occasion.”

In text messages between the couple:

*On Oct. 13 Garrett allegedly wrote “‘sometimes you take punishment too far.'”

*In the two days leading up to Malakai’s death text messages allegedly describe incidents in which Vanryn voiced frustration with the boy soiling his bed and outfits.

*Vanryn allegedly wrote to Garrett several times, including on three separate dates in early November, that “he is done watching her kids.”

Garrett posted a video to her Facebook page in which Malakai, who has a mark on his face, allegedly says, “Mitch hit my head,” according to the affidavit.

Amber Garrett allegedly said she saw Vanryn hit the couple’s pit bull when the dog misbehaved, that Nov. 27 Malakai complained to her about pain to the back of his head and that she should have taken him to an emergency room the day before he died.

Vanryn faces charges of murder; aggravated battery, a Level 1 felony; and domestic battery death, a Level 2 felony. His trial is set for May 15-17 in Allen Superior Court with a pretrial hearing April 13 before Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull.

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