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Grandmother in viral overdose photo pleads not guilty to child endangerment, public intoxication

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — The woman in a graphic photo, who was seen passed out in a car after allegedly overdosing on heroin, will appear in court Thursday.

Rhonda Pasek was expected to appear in court on Sept. 15, 2016, after Ohio police shared an image, right, of her apparently suffering from an overdose alongside a man with her grandson in the backseat. (Left: Columbiana County Jail)

Rhonda Pasek was expected to appear in court on Sept. 15, 2016, after Ohio police shared an image, right, of her apparently suffering from an overdose alongside a man with her grandson in the backseat. (Left: Columbiana County Jail)

The infamous photo, distributed by an Ohio police department, showed Rhonda Pasek sitting in the passenger seat slumped next to the unconscious driver. Meanwhile, her 4-year-old grandson was seated in the back, looking out the window.

Pasek has pleaded not guilty to endangering a child, disorderly conduct and public intoxication. She is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing at the East Liverpool Municipal Court.

Six weeks before her arrest on September 7, she had been granted custody of her grandson, said Dane Walton, administrator for the Columbiana County Juvenile Court. The boy’s parents had been unable to raise him. He will now live with his great-aunt and great-uncle in South Carolina, Walton added.

Last week, a police officer spotted a car weaving erratically between lanes, according to an affidavit.

The driver, James Acord, was trying to tell the officer that he was transporting Pasek to the hospital, when he lost consciousness.

Paramedics administered Narcan, an opiate reversal agent, to Pasek, who was turning blue, according to an affidavit. The pair “almost definitely” would have died had police not intervened, East Liverpool service safety director Brian Allen had told CNN.

Acord pleaded no contest to operating a vehicle while impaired and endangering a child. He was sentenced last week to 360 days in jail, had his driver’s license suspended for three years and was fined $475.

The city of East Liverpool said it released the photos of the pair to raise awareness about the perils of heroin.

“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,” the Facebook post read.