Ohio News Briefs

County coroner: Fentanyl fueled big spike in overdose deaths

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — The coroner in a southwestern Ohio county says accidental overdoses spiked more than 20 percent last year, driven in large part by the rise of fentanyl and other powerful opioids.

Butler County Coroner Lisa Mannix said Tuesday that her office investigated 232 overdoses in 2017. It was the fourth consecutive year with a rise in drug deaths.

Mannix said she has seen a shift from cases involving heroin alone to those also involving fentanyl or similar drugs.

She said combating the drug problem provides a “moving target” and hopes the county’s overdose prevention efforts can stop the rise in 2018.

Scott Rasmus, head of a local mental health and addiction board, says the drug crisis is becoming “more potent and lethal as each month passes.”

Feds announce charges in online dating financial scam

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The government says eight people have been charged with laundering money obtained from online romance scams based in Ohio.

Federal prosecutors say the individuals created false profiles on online dating sites including Match.com and MillionaireMatch.com and contacted men and women across the U.S. on the pretense of starting romantic relationships.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbus said Tuesday the defendants would eventually request money for investments, often involving gold, diamond, oil and gas pipeline opportunities in Africa.

The government says victims wired tens of thousands of dollars to the suspects.

An indictment alleges the defendants often used money to buy salvaged vehicles online which were then exported to Ghana.

Forensic scientist: Evidence muddies Ohio death penalty case

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Death penalty opponents say prosecutors’ theories in the case of a condemned Ohio killer set to die next month have been disproven by a forensic examination.

A report from Colorado-based Independent Forensic Services says a woman shot to death in the Toledo area in 1986 died only hours before her body was found, not days.

The company says its examination of the autopsy of Debra Ogle determined her corpse didn’t show signs of decomposition normal in a body outside for a few days.

Kevin Werner is executive director of Ohioans To Stop Executions. He said Wednesday that the conclusion raises numerous questions about the conviction of death row inmate William Montgomery, whose execution is set for April 11.

Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates says evidence shows Montgomery was Ogle’s killer.

Police: Boy, 16, struck by train killed in eastern Ohio

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old boy has been struck by a train and killed in eastern Ohio.

The East Liverpool Review reports East Palestine police say the department was notified around 6:15 p.m. about someone having been struck.

Police say it appears the teen was trying to walk across the tracks when he was struck by a Norfolk and Southern train hauling semitrailers.

Police haven’t released the boy’s identity.

East Palestine is roughly 88 miles (142 kilometers) southeast of Cleveland near the Pennsylvania border.

Death of boy buried in Cleveland backyard ruled a homicide

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio medical examiner has ruled the death of a 4-year-old boy whose remains were found in a trash bag in the backyard of a vacant Cleveland home a homicide by “unspecified means.”

No one has been arrested or charged in the death of Eliazar Ruiz, whose remains were found by a landscaper last September.

His mother, imprisoned on a parole violation for a drug conviction, helped identify the boy in January after seeing a sketch on television.

WOIO-TV reports the boy’s grandmother wasn’t allowed to file a missing persons report in June 2017 because she didn’t have custody. The grandmother, Dawn Battle, says she along with Eliazar’s mother and father thought he’d been taken out of state by his godmother, who’d been caring for the boy.