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The Journal Gazette

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018 1:00 am

Facebook official sought to testify

Has 'material evidence' in mom's trial

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Allen County prosecutors want someone from Facebook to testify at the trial next month of a Fort Wayne woman charged in the death of her 2-year-old son in November.

Documents filed in Allen Superior Court list the social media giant's custodian of records as a material witness in the case against Amber V. Garrett, 27. She is charged with two counts of felony neglect in her son's death, and testimony from the Facebook official “is expected to contain material evidence” related to the charges.

Malakai Garrett died Nov. 29 after being beaten, police said. He had multiple injuries consistent with being struck with a closed fist, doctors told police who investigated the child's death.

A four-day trial is scheduled to start Nov. 27, and documents filed last week call for Facebook's record-keeper to testify on the first day “or as soon thereafter as he/she can be called.”

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards and Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel sought a judge's decision in September to order the unnamed official to testify, and Judge Fran Gull complied Thursday. A certificate signed by Gull states it will be sent to a judge in San Mateo, California – where Facebook is located – and the official could argue there whether they should testify at the trial. The testimony is required for one day, court documents said.

The documents do not identify the evidence the Facebook official is expected to address, but social media already has played a key role in at least one part of the case. Garrett asked in February to move her trial from Allen County, citing news coverage and angry comments from Facebook users.

Gull rejected the request, writing in a June order Garrett failed to show “a generalized pattern of deep and bitter hostility throughout the community that it will be unlikely an impartial jury can be selected.”

Mitchell Vanryn, 28, is charged with murder in the boy's death. He allegedly was taking care of Malakai when he was killed, according to court documents.

Vanryn rushed the toddler from a home he shared with Garrett on Palmetta Court to a fire station on North Clinton Street, a probable cause affidavit states. Malakai was taken from there to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The boy's half sister said in a recorded interview that was played in court Sept. 14 that she didn't see what happened to Malakai but recalled her mother and Vanryn using a belt to discipline the children.

Gull on Tuesday filed separate orders allowing the girl to testify at trials for Garrett and Vanryn through closed-circuit television.

Vanryn's trial is scheduled to begin March 19.

mleblanc@jg.net