Zachary Didier: Parents tearfully remember 'amazing' teen as drug dealer gets 17 years for causing fentanyl death
PLACER COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: A man who sold counterfeit pills that led to a Rocklin teen's death from fentanyl poisoning was sentenced on Thursday, September 1. The victim's parents, who are now fighting to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl, remembered their beloved son in court.
Virgil Xavier Bordner, 22, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in connection with the death of 17-year-old Zachary Didier. Bordner received 178 days of credits for time served, good conduct, and education while in jail. The court will decide on the restitution in a separate hearing scheduled for October 24. Placer County officials said Bordner pleaded no contest to three charges, including involuntary manslaughter and two counts of selling a controlled substance to a minor, and admitted the special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury.
Zachary, a promising student-athlete at Whitney High School, purchased what he thought was Percocet from Bordner via Snapchat. However, he had instead unknowingly bought and ingested the deadly synthetic opioid and died on December 27, 2020, according to his devastated parents, Laura and Chris. The judge heard emotional victim impact statements from Zach's family before handing down the sentence.
Our prayers and condolences go out the the Didier family. Zach was an outstanding young man and The track and field community will miss him immensely. My best memory of Zach is his willingness to do whatever we needed, including volunteering during the summer to fix hurdles. pic.twitter.com/Zkmea283ha— Whitney Track & Field (@whitney__TF) December 30, 2020
"There are no words to describe what it does to a mother’s heart to see your baby in a body bag and kiss them for the last time," Laura told the court. She said it was impossible not to love her son, who she described as a joyful, self-taught musician who loved singing. The grieving mother gushed about how the teen had mustered the courage to audition for a musical and had starred in that stage production just months before his untimely demise. “It was a beautiful show. And I knew I believed it would be the first of many times I would watch him light up the stage,” Laura said, adding, “Zach worked so hard to set himself up for an amazing future that he never got to see."
Chris told the judge about “the debilitating torment and anguish of losing your own child.” He insisted his son had a bright future and had been accepted to five University of California campuses, including UCLA. However, instead of moving to college, Zach died in his own bedroom, becoming yet another victim of the alarming fentanyl crisis that has plagued the nation. The embattled father said he only learned about the pervasiveness of fentanyl poisoning after losing his son to the dangerously potent drug. “Drug manufacturers are creating a product with a purpose to deceive, and our nation’s young adults are now being targeted and tricked into believing their purchase is a safe pharmaceutical-grade product by drug dealers,” Chris told the judge.
Bordner also gave a statement saying he was deeply sorry. He admitted that it was a mistake and that he thought about what has happened every single day. "If I could take it back in a heartbeat and exchange my life for Zach's, I would. I never meant any harm to Zach," Bordner said in court. He insisted that Zach was a good friend to him and he hoped his family would find in their hearts to forgive him someday. Zach's mother spoke to reporters outside the courthouse saying she was grateful to hear Bordner express remorse about her son's demise. “And if me acknowledging his comments and expressing gratitude for those comments helps him to lead a better life in the future, then he has those,” Laura told reporters.
As reported by the Sacramento Bee, the Didiers have since joined Placer County’s public awareness campaign '1 Pill Can Kill' to warn parents about the dangers of fentanyl. Laura and Chris admitted that they struggled to speak publicly about their son's death, with some “victim-shaming” or “parent-shaming” them and ignoring their message about the life-threatening drug. Zach's father said some parents have somehow come to believe that his death was connected to addiction. "Zach's death was not a death from addiction. And when addiction is connected to our story, the victim shaming creeps in and our message is lost. The message of the lethality of this drug and the deception behind it is lost," he said.
Chris even clarified in the courtroom that his son had no known history of drug addiction or depression. “I know he did not want to die, but his decision to self-medicate with what he thought was a non-lethal prescription pill cost him his life,” the heartbroken father said. “The actions of the defendant providing counterfeit pills have greatly affected our lives in the worst possible way.” Placer County Sheriff Wayne Woo thanked the aggrieved family for helping raise awareness about the situation. "The Didiers experienced every parent's worst nightmare. And unfortunately, that nightmare strikes families in Placer County all too often because of this fentanyl epidemic," Woo said, as quoted by KCRA 3.