Dealer Linked To Elephant Tranquilizer Overdose Death Faces Murder Charge

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A drug dealer is facing a murder charge after being linked to a fatal overdose in Minnesota involving a synthetic opioid meant for tranquilizing elephants.

Jacob David Svobodny, 28, is charged with third-degree murder, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Carver County, Minn., which could send him away for 25 years. Officers investigating the Jan. 7, 2017, death of an unidentified man at an apartment complex in Chaska allege Svobodny sold heroin cut with carfentanil to the victim, knowing the batch was tainted with a potent opioid, reports KSTP.

Carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer roughly 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Leah Peterson, a woman who drove Svobodny to buy the heroin, says Svobodny asked her for help selling the supply. She allegedly texted the victim to arrange the sale. Peterson, who is charged with aiding and abetting third-degree murder, said Svobodny forced the victim to inject some of the heroin in their car before leaving the area.

After learning the victim suffered a fatal overdose, Svobodny allegedly told Peterson he was “pretty sure” there was fentanyl cut into the heroin he sold and to stay quiet. A subsequent report from the medical examiners office, however, confirmed the victim died from carfentanil.

The powerful substance is increasingly cropping up in both heroin and cocaine supplies in communities throughout the country. Officials in Washington County, Pa., issued an alert in February warning that several recent overdose cases turned up positive for cocaine and carfentanil.

In neighboring Westmoreland County, where 30 overdose deaths were attributed to carfentanil in 2017, officials say overdoses linked to the substance increased toward the end of the year.

“We saw a few cases pop up early in 2017, but then by the end of the year it really picked up,” Ken Bacha, coroner for Westmoreland County, told Trib Live. “This drug is so powerful and so deadly.”

Drug overdoses, fueled by synthetic opioids, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Trump Vows To Win The War Against Opioid Addiction:

National Institute on Drug Abuse data released on Sept. 7 paints a grim outlook for the future of the drug crisis ravaging American communities.

The study predicts America’s addiction epidemic will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row drug deaths surpass the Vietnam War’s U.S. casualties.

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