The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 1:00 am

Journal entry

Shining a light on system's failings

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

By the time I got notice that the Indiana Department of Child Services would release public records I requested on the death of Malakai Garrett, it was late July 2018, months after his Nov. 29, 2017, death. 

The 2-year-old's death was ruled a homicide, the result of severe internal injuries to his stomach, liver, small intestine and pancreas, the kind of injuries delivered with multiple blows and strikes from a closed fist. 

Mitchell Vanryn, his mother's live-in boyfriend, was convicted of Malakai's death a year ago this month, but not of murder. 

What the public records revealed was the dysfunctional lead-up to Malakai's final day, abetted by the use of restraining orders to keep Malakai's father and his family away from what they knew to be an increasingly violent situation. The records documented the family's warnings to DCS and law enforcement that the little boy was being mistreated.  

Within the 400-plus pages of records were descriptions of the concerns raised by Malakai's maternal great-grandmother, who noticed bruises on his face and expressed regret she hadn't been more insistent when she was turned away from his home on the day he died. 

We learned that Malakai's paternal great-grandmother pleaded with DCS and law enforcement to intervene after she made a surprise visit to Malakai's home and noticed how he had changed from a sturdy toddler to a malnourished child.

There was proof of the frantic efforts made by Malakai's father to see his son. Sadly, a court hearing over parental rights came too late. Lantz Garrett was left to wait in Malakai's hospital room and watch him die.

We need the light that comes from releasing these records. It is the light of justice.


Jamie Duffy is the police reporter for The Journal Gazette.


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