FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — For the first time, we are hearing from a family member of little Malakai Garrett, who died after he was severely beaten by his mom’s boyfriend.
The mother, Amber Garrett, pleaded guilty Thursday with the deal calling for her to serve much less time in prison.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get justice for him,” says Malakai’s grandma, Chante Harter.
The two-year-old died in November of 2017 after being repeatedly and badly beaten by his mother’s boyfriend, Mitch Vanryn, who has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Harter says Malakai’s father knew about the plea deal offered to Amber Garrett, the toddler’s mother charged with two felony counts of neglect related to his death, and that the family reluctantly accepts it.
“We’d rather know that she’s going to prison than possiblty walk away,” she says.
The deal calls for Malakai’s mother to plead guilty to the two charges.
In return, she will be sentenced to no more than six years in prison, instead of a possible 12 if she’d been convicted.
“We’ll never see him to go high school, go to high school dances, get married, have babies. No amount of time will bring that back. But this is better than nothing? It’s better than nothing,” Harter says.
Malakai is buried in a Warsaw cemetery.
Harter says she hid a camera near the little boy’s grave to keep an eye on it, and says Amber Garrett never visited.
“I go out every week, faithfully, and I would change batteries and I would change the SD card. So that is a fact. That is the truth.” Harter says.
Malakai died right before an emergency court hearing to get him removed from his mother’s care, and Harter says every time she visits his grave, she apologizes to him for what he went through.
“I play ‘You are my sunshine,’ because I used to tell him all of the time that he was my sunshine. And I just tell him that we’re sorry, that we tried so hard to get him out of there,” she says.
While the family may not have known that Amber Garrett’s change of plea hearing was happening Thursday, Harter says she and other family members will be in court for her sentencing July 19th.