EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — The grandmother recently seen in a shocking viral photo showing her and a male friend passed out from a heroin overdose while a young boy sat in the back seat of the car has been sentenced to 180 days behind bars.
Rhonda Pasek, 50, pleaded no contest on Wednesday to charges of endangering a child and public intoxication and was sentenced to serve six months in the Columbiana County Jail.
As previously reported, Pasek became the center of discussion nationwide after the City of East Liverpool posted to social media an unblurred photo of the grandmother and her friend James Accord, 47—along with the young boy—stating that it needed to “be a voice for the children.”
“We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug,” officials explained. “We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”
According to reports, on Sept. 7, Kevin Thompson, an officer with the East Liverpool Police Department observed a vehicle weaving erratically and then coming to an abrupt stop behind a school bus. A short distance later, the car came to a complete stop in the middle of the road and Thompson approached.
He found Acord behind the wheel, who, with a bobbing head, sought to communicate that he was taking Pasek to the hospital. Pasek was passed out in the front seat, and Acord likewise fell unconscious moments later.
Thompson shut off the car and called for paramedics, who administered the opiate reversal drug Narcan and transported the two to the hospital. Police told CNN on Monday that the two “almost definitely” would have died if Thompson had not intervened as they had overdosed on heroin.
But while tending to passed out pair, Thompson noticed that a young boy—Pasek’s grandson—was riding in the back seat of the car, strapped in his car seat. The officer took photos of the scene, which police administrators soon decided to publicly release on social media, along with the affidavit outlining the incident.
Reports now outline that Pasek had been raising the boy since July as her son and his girlfriend had lost custody of two of their three children due to the girlfriend’s struggles with cocaine and marijuana. The judge that granted Pasek guardianship says he had no idea that she was on drugs herself.
“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non-drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis,” the city wrote in sharing the photo. “The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that.”
Acord plead no contest and was sentenced to 360 days behind bars. Pasek soon did the same but faced a lighter sentence of 180 days.
The boy has now been transferred to the custody of Pasek’s sister, his great aunt and uncle, in South Carolina.