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Mother of toddler who died of abuse pleads guilty to neglect; deal caps prison time

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – The mother of Malakai Garrett has admitted guilt in the toddler’s death, and it will restrict the amount of prison time she receives.

2-year-old Malakai died as a result of abuse in November of 2017 by Amber’s then-live-in boyfriend, 28-year-old Mitch Vanryn.

Thursday, Garrett pleaded guilty to two felony counts of neglect in her son’s death.

If the deal is accepted, she could get a maximum six-year prison sentence and a minimum of three years behind bars.

READ MORE: After recent arrest, Amber Garrett due back in court

Malakai Garrett died in late November 2017 from massive internal injuries.

He suffered from a lacerated pancreas and liver, injuries inflicted by Mitch Vanryn, Amber Garrett’s live-in boyfriend who was babysitting for Malakai.

Vanryn was acquitted of murder, but got 40 years for aggravated battery and domestic battery.

Prosecutors charged Garrett with neglect, claiming she knew her son was being abused and did nothing to shield him from it.

Court documents, for example, indicate she told police she noticed a large bruise on Malakai’s face two days before his death, could not offer an explanation how it got there, but still left the boy with Vanryn on November 29th, the day he died.

More evidence that she knew Malakai was in harm’s way under the care of Vanryn– prosecutors maintain she told investigators Vanryn was mean and harsh on her kids and she didn’t like it.

We reached out to the Allen County prosecutor’s office and the defense lawyer in the case for comment.

We didn’t get a response from prosecutors, while defense lawyer Anthony Churchward said he would make a statement after sentencing.

Judge Fran Gull will decide whether to accept the plea, and if so, will dole out punishment at the sentencing hearing set to take place July 19th.

Amber Garrett was booked into jail in April on suspicion that she had been in contact with her daughter. A piece of video that was reviewed by authorities showed the girl in question, however, was not that daughter.

The death of Malakai has stirred strong sentiment in the community, including the creation of an advocacy group in the young boy’s name.

An Allen County jury acquitted Mitch Vanryn of murder, but convicted him of aggravated and domestic battery.

READ MORE: Jury returns verdict in case against Mitch Vanryn

Allen County Judge Frances Gull sentenced Vanryn to 40 total years in prison. 

He received 40 years for the aggravated battery charge, and 30 years for the domestic battery charge, to be served at the same time, or concurrently.

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Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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