'I love you and I’m sorry.' Biological father of Clay Township boy killed in hunting incident never had chance to meet son

Posted at 6:45 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 18:50:48-04

CLAY TWP. (WXYZ) — A boy was shot and killed during a deer hunt with his family in Clay Township. The suspect — the boy’s stepfather —was in court Wednesday. The victim never met his biological father but had plans to do so before the horrific incident.

“My first time meeting my son was in his casket.,” said David Manfrin, 11-year-old Zachary Rock's biological father.

Manfrin lives in Virginia and says he found out he is Zachary’s father a couple of months ago. He would video chat with Zachary and couldn’t wait to put his arms around him.

“From what I hear from everybody, he was the kindest, sweetest boy,” Manfrin said.

But Manfrin’s happiness turned to sorrow on Sept. 13.

Police say Zachary was hunting with family on their property in Clay Township when his stepfather, John Varndell Jr., fired shots, hitting the boy who died at the hospital.

“By far the worst thing that can happen is a parent buries a child that he never got to meet,” Manfrin said.

In court, witnesses testified that Varndell had smoked marijuana several times that day. Manfrin believes it was an accident that could have been prevented.

“It was clearly gross negligence,” he said. “It was already after dark. Nobody was wearing orange. Everybody was told not to hunt because it was getting dark and he took it upon himself to step into the woods and fire eight shots at something he couldn’t even see.”

Manfrin rushed to Michigan, but not in time to hold Zachary before he was gone.

He has this message for the boy he never got to meet: “I love you and I’m sorry you had to go. I wish we got a chance to know each other.”