The Journal Gazette
Friday, November 22, 2019 1:00 am

Dad files suit in 2-year-old's beating death

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The father of a 2-year-old boy beaten to death two years ago is suing the child's mother and her boyfriend, who was acquitted of murder but convicted of aggravated battery and domestic battery and sentenced to 40 years in prison. 

Lantz Garrett argues in a wrongful death filing in Allen Superior Court that Amber Garrett, 28, and Mitchell Vanryn, 29, are liable for the boy's death. The 10-page lawsuit also names as defendants Dale L. Unverzagt and Roberta Jean Unverzagt – the boy's great-grandparents, who owned the Palmetta Drive home where the slaying occurred and allegedly knew the boy was being abused. 

“The wrongful acts or omissions of these defendants, individually and collectively ... caused or contributed to Malakai's death,” the document states. 

Malakai was beaten Nov. 29, 2017, and suffered severe injuries to internal organs. The pathologist who conducted an autopsy testified at Vanryn's trial in March the boy's organs “were shredded” and said the injuries were equivalent to a fall from a three-story building. 

Amber Garrett was not home at the time, but pleaded guilty to two felony neglect charges – one for Malakai, one for her daughter, who also lived in the home – and was ordered to spend six years behind bars. 

Jurors in March found Vanryn not guilty of murder after defense attorneys argued he didn't intend to kill the boy. They convicted him of the other two charges, and he is being held at the Miami Correctional Facility near Bunker Hill. 

His earliest release date is Nov. 30, 2047, according Indiana Department of Correction records. 

Amber Garrett is being held at the Rockville Correctional Facility and could be released in 2024. 

The lawsuit was filed Friday and seeks damages including “the loss of Malakai's love and companionship,” “expenses associated with Malakai's medical care and treatment” and funeral and burial expenses. 

The defendants have not responded to the lawsuit.

An initial hearing is scheduled Feb. 3.

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