The Journal Gazette
Saturday, September 15, 2018 1:00 am

Court hears child recall beatings to half brother

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The half sister of a 2-year-old boy who died in November was outside playing on a trampoline when she heard the man accused of killing him yelling inside the house.

“He was saying, 'Malakai, wake up! Malakai, wake up!' over and over,” Kaydence Hull, now 7, told a forensic interviewer in December.

She was ordered away from the door to the house by Mitchell Vanryn when she tried to get back in.

“Mitch said, 'Go back out there,'” the girl told interviewer Patricia Smallwood a few days after Malakai Garrett died.

The comments are included on a nearly 70-minute video recording of the interview played Friday in Allen Superior Court during a hearing for the girl's mother, Amber Garrett, 27. She is charged with two felony counts of neglect in Malakai's death. Vanryn, 28, is charged with murder.

The video provides a chilling firsthand account of what investigators have said was the beating death of the toddler.

A judge will decide whether to allow the video to be played at Garrett's trial, scheduled to begin Nov. 27. The child could also testify through closed-circuit television.

The recording shows the girl telling Smallwood she did not see what happened to Malakai, but she said her mother and Vanryn each used a belt to discipline the children. Kaydence said “spankings” also were sometimes administered with a wooden spoon.

Vanryn also hit Garrett, the girl said.

“I really don't like Mitch,” she said in the interview.

Malakai died Nov. 29 after being beaten, and doctors told investigators he had multiple injuries consistent with being struck with a closed fist, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Garrett, who was not home when the boy died, was charged in January. Vanryn was charged with murder in December.

Prosecutors filed paperwork in July alleging the toddler endured abuse that included beatings, chemical burns and “abrasions on his corneas” for weeks before he died. Court documents detail text messages between Garrett and Vanryn that say Malakai “just got the belt pretty good” and the children would be kept in their rooms all day and only let out to eat or use the bathroom.

“In late August 2017, (Malakai) was treated at a local hospital after he was given and Epson (sic) salt bath, resulting in a chemical burn and abrasions on his corneas,” prosecutors allege. “This is also documented in text messages on (Garrett's) phone and medical records that were subsequently obtained.”

Garrett watched the video in court Friday with her attorney, John Bohdan, and she showed little emotion. She did not speak at the hearing.

Two mental health experts cautioned during the hearing against putting Kaydence on the stand at trial, arguing doing so would be damaging for the child. Allowing her to testify via closed-circuit TV – with counselors and others she trusts nearby – would be safer, psychologist David Lombard and clinical therapist Kathy Massonne said.

Lombard and Massonne each examined the girl after Malakai's death.

Vanryn's trial is scheduled for Oct. 23.

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