Teen who gave kids hemlock won't face charges

A teenage boy who ate poison hemlock and persuaded four Talent Elementary students to join him will not be charged for his actions, Talent police said Thursday.

Three of the four elementary students were treated at local hospitals after eating the potentially deadly weed and becoming ill. They and the teenage boy have recovered.

"When we first looked at the case we thought it was a police matter, that he knew the hemlock was bad for them," said Talent police Detective Matt Potts.

The teenager said the weed looked and tasted like parsley, and he didn't know it would have an effect, Potts said. The other students told police he ate more of the hemlock than they did.

"Although it's foolish, I didn't find any intent on his part to harm the children or any proof that he knew this was going to be harmful," Potts said.

The teenager visited Talent Middle School Monday after classes to see his sister, an elementary pupil who was playing on school grounds with the four other students.

He reportedly told the children that the hemlock was parsley. At least four elementary students ate the hemlock.

One 10-year-old girl described what she ate as a "hallucinogen," her mother, Lucille Orndorff said.

That's what raised police suspicion about the teenager's motivation in eating the hemlock and offering it to the children, Potts said.

"She didn't elaborate how she learned that word," Potts said.

Orndorff's 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son became ill from eating the weed.

Her daughter said she was dizzy and saw a purple cow, Orndorff said. Her son was vomiting, and his muscles were shaking, she said.

"He kept saying, 'I don't want to die,' " Orndorff said. "It was scary."

Hemlock is prevalent in marshy areas in the Pacific Northwest and can be fatal if ingested.

The toxic weed is common along the Talent Irrigation District's ditches and grows among a blackberry patch on a knoll above the middle school's athletic fields.

The hemlock was removed Wednesday and Thursday from the school property.

Phoenix-Talent schools Superintendent Ben Bergreen said he will discuss with Jackson County Roads and Parks about whether it would be appropriate to start spraying the hemlock with an herbicide to control it. School officials plan to increase educational efforts at the schools to inform children of the dangers of eating unknown plants, Bergreen said.

"My kids know not to talk to strangers, but who's to think there's going to be a poisonous plant on school grounds?" Orndorff said. "They know it now and said they won't eat anything unless it comes from mom."

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