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Elephant sedative raises alarm in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Coroners in two of Ohio's largest counties have issued drug-abuse warnings after the reappearance of an opioid so powerful it's sometimes used to sedate elephants.

Dr. Anahi Ortiz is the coroner in Franklin County in central Ohio. She said Friday that the county had at least three carfentanil-related overdose deaths in January.

Ortiz said the county, home of the capital, Columbus, had six carfentanil-related deaths in all of 2018, with the last in September.

Ortiz said the drug is "extremely potent" and almost impossible to detect by sight because it's often mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.

Cuyahoga County medical examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson issued a similar warning Thursday based on an increase in carfentanil seizures in the Cleveland area this year.

U.S. fights suspect's bid to change plea

NEW ORLEANS -- Federal prosecutors oppose a man's effort to withdraw his guilty plea on charges related to the 2016 shooting of a Louisiana law officer.

Jarvis Hardy recently moved to withdraw his guilty plea on drug and firearm charges. The plea was part of a deal that included dropping an attempted-murder charge and a major firearms charge in the shooting of federal task force member Stephen Arnold. Hardy's motion said he accepted the deal and a negotiated 35-year sentence because he faced a minimum 45-year sentence if convicted as charged.

Now, his lawyers say changes in federal law could mean a lower minimum sentence.

Prosecutors said in a Friday filing that Hardy made the plea knowingly and that it should stand.

"The record clearly shows that at the time of his plea, Hardy was fully aware of what he was doing and the consequences he faced in light of the then applicable law. His knowing plea and valid agreement does not become vulnerable because a subsequent change in the law altered the sentence on a count that was dismissed," the prosecutors' document says.

Arnold, a Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputy working with federal agents, was shot and severely wounded during a raid on Hardy's home.

In the documents filed Friday, prosecutors said Arnold is now in a vegetative state at a nursing home.

"Stephen lives only with the support of machines and round the clock care," the document says.

Hardy's motion said that he has long maintained that he fired a weapon not knowing that Arnold was a law officer, but believing that his home was being illegally invaded.

A hearing is set for Thursday.

290 in group caught after illegal entry

ANTELOPE WELLS, N.M. -- U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 290 Central Americans who entered the country illegally near a port of entry in a remote area of southwestern New Mexico.

The Customs and Border Protection agency said the foreigners arrested Friday near Antelope Wells, 122 miles west of El Paso, Texas, were from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. The group included a boy who was taken to a hospital because he appeared to be ill.

The agency said more than 27 groups of more than 100 people have been apprehended in the area in the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.

It is unclear what's driving the uptick of large groups in remote areas but families make up a large and growing percentage of arrests across the border.

Texting tested as abuse reporting tool

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The country's top child-abuse hotline recently opened its first text line, and now the nonprofit is looking to Missouri for help determining the efficiency of the service.

The new text line is part of national child advocacy nonprofit Childhelp's efforts to reach more young people, who may be less comfortable or unable to report abuse over the phone.

Michelle Fingerman, Childhelp's national director, told the Kansas City Star that the majority of people calling the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline are adults speaking on children's behalf. But informal testing of text lines in recent years found that more than 80 percent of users were younger than 18 years old, Fingerman said.

"It confirmed what we were suspecting," Fingerman said. "That youth weren't calling, because they were comfortable reaching out in other ways, including text."

Childhelp officials plan to study what works for text line counselors in Missouri, which ranks third in the country for helpline calls made per capita.

The ranking doesn't reflect higher abuse rates than other states. Missouri's rates of substantiated abuse cases dropped to 3 percent in 2017, below the country's 9 percent rate, according to hotline data, federal statistics and the census.

With the state's strong history of using the national hotline, Childhelp leaders said testing the text line's success in Missouri will be key to understanding and improving the service.

"For us it is leveraging technology in a positive way," Fingerman said. "If we know if this is how youth connect at this point, I think our priority is to meet them where they are at."

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

A Section on 02/10/2019

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