11-Year-Old Killed While Hunting, Stepfather Charged for Involuntary Manslaughter

by Halle Ames
11-Year-Old-Killed-While-Hunting-Stepfather-Charged-Involuntary-Manslaughter

On Tuesday, the authorities charged a man in Fort Wayne, Indiana with involuntary manslaughter after killing his 11-year-old stepson in a hunting accident.

Stepfather’s Previously Charged

John Varndell Jr. is charged with involuntary manslaughter, as well as a felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition, two felony firearms second offense charges, and a habitual fourth violent offender.

If found guilty, Varndell faces a minimum sentence of 25 years with a maximum sentence of life in prison, due to the habitual violent offender charge.

His bond is currently at $500,000.

St. Clair County Public Defender Michael Boucher is seeking a $75,000 bond. Boucher says his client feels “agonized” about the situation at hand.

“In 25 years of practicing criminal defense work, I have not met with a defendant who is more distressed and agonized moreover a set of circumstances. This person was his stepson, a person that he loved very much,” Boucher said.

On the other hand, St. Clair County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Sparling is seeking a $1 million bond. He says that Varndell may not return to court due to his prior record if the authorities release him.

“I think the seriousness and danger here cannot be stressed enough,” Sparling counters. “Clearly, we have an 11-year-old boy whose life was taken from him much too early. This clear lack of utter disregard by firing these rounds and ending the boy’s life is a serious danger.”

According to state records, this is not Varndell’s first time in trouble with the law. He has prior convictions of assault with a dangerous weapon, operating while intoxicated, resisting and obstructing police, first-degree home invasion, felony firearms, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

The Incident

Varndell shot his stepson, Zachary Rock, at 8 p.m. on Sunday while out with his family looking for deer. First responders started CPR, but medical professionals later transported Rock to McLaren Macomb hospital, where he died.

According to Rock’s aunt, Vardell and his stepson had a decent relationship. The pair has also been out hunting numerous times before.

[H/T Times Herald]

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