4-year-old boy dubbed 'new face of America's heroin crisis' has sad family history

4-year-old boy dubbed 'new face of America's heroin crisis' has sad family history

The woman who was photographed overdosed on heroin in a car with a four-year-old boy had won full custody of the child just less than two months ago.

Now, the authorities are doing all they can to keep her away from the boy - her grandson.

Rhonda Pasek, 50, was initially assumed to be the mother of the boy when she was found passed out and "turning blue" in the car with her boyfriend James Acord, 47.

Photos of the two allegedly overdosed adults in the front seats of the car - while the boy in the backseat looked on with a blank expression - were posted on the Facebook page of the City of East Liverpool, Ohio, on Friday (Sept 9). The photos went viral quickly, and have been shared close to 29,000 times.

Acord has since been sentenced to 360 days in jail while Pasek is awaiting trial, Fox 8 News in Cleveland reported.

The boy is now going to live with his great-aunt and great-uncle in South Carolina, several media outlets reported.

In a report, Britain's Daily Mail said it has "pieced together all the strands surrounding the child's life, from court documents and interviews".

It also tracked down the boy's mother, Miss Reva McCullough, 25, who is working as a stripper in a "gentleman's club". She has said that she wants her boy back.

According to Daily Mail, the four-year-old is the elder of two sons Miss McCullough had with 25-year-old Devon Pasek, who she said she's no longer together with. She also has a third son with another man.

Court papers revealed that the boy in the viral photo was previously in the care of Miss McCullough's grandparents for most of his life.

Just four months after he was born in August 2012, the octogenarians signed affidavits claiming that their granddaughter was using illicit drugs. They also said that the boy's father was trafficking drugs, even though he was never charged. They added that the conduct of the boy's parents "is erratic at best and is certainly unreliable".

The great grandparents were given custody of the boy despite their advanced age.

However, in 2014, they started to worry about their ability to look after the boy because of their age, and asked that custody of the boy be given to their daughter and son-in-law in South Carolina.

However, the boy's paternal grandmother, Pasek, objected and was eventually given full custody of the boy in July this year.

His three-year-old brother now lives in Delaware with Rhonda Pasek's sister.

The men who released the pictures of the overdosed couple have defended their decision to publish the graphic images. "If we hadn't, Rhonda Pasek would have received a slap on the wrist and that little boy would have gone back to her - that's not going to happen now," one of the men said. "I doubt she will see that child again."

sinsh@sph.com.sg

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