The stripper mother of the little boy who has become the face of America's heroin crisis has revealed for the first time her anguish at seeing her son looking on in a daze as the adults who were taking care of him slump unconscious in their car.
"I bawled for four days straight," Reva McCullough, 25, told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview. "I want my boy back."
The decision to release the unaltered picture that stunned the world, was made by three city officials in East Liverpool, Ohio: mayor Ryan Stovall, police chief John Lane, and service-safety director Brian Allen - and they all say the made the right call.
"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," Allen told DailyMail.com. "I doubt she will see that child again."
McCullough's four-year-old son was, on Monday, placed in the care of a great aunt living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Authorities are trying to keep him away from his paternal grandmother Rhonda Pasek, the woman pictured passed out from an apparent heroin overdose in the front passenger seat of her boyfriend's SUV.
Court papers obtained by DailyMail.com show the boy has been tossed around among warring relatives almost since birth.
McCullough, who admitted she did crack, lost custody of the boy in December 2012 about four and a hald months before he was born because of her drug use. The judge originally gave custody to his great grandparents, now in their mid-80s, but custody battles have involved his birth parents, a grandmother, a friend and two great aunts, living in a total of four different states.
We tracked McCullough down to Tiffany's Dolls, a "gentleman's club" in the Youngstown suburb of North Lima, Ohio, where she dances under the name Mercedes.
Wearing nothing but heels, a minuscule G-string and a tiny black dress which didn't even skim her backside, she talked openly about the past drug use that led to her losing two of her three sons.
Tattoos of a fish and a cowboy boot adorn her torso.
When told that just hours before our meeting, her oldest son had been placed with her aunt, hundreds of miles away, she said: "I didn't even know that."
DailyMail.com approached McCullough shortly before 2am on Tuesday. She appeared bright, intelligent and sober.
Sipping on a plastic cup of water, she said: "I don't take drugs any more. I haven't even had a drink all night.
"Ironically I have never taken heroin," she said, but she admitted she had abused crack cocaine and marijuana for years.
"I've made a lot of bad decisions in my life," added McCullough, who said she is now living in East Palestine, Ohio. "I just went wild when I was 18."
The picture of McCullough's son, taken by cops in East Liverpool, Ohio, put a human face on the scourge of heroin that has attacked America's heartland for years.
In the five days that followed, East Liverpool, a town of 11,000 people, saw seven more overdoses and one death from heroin.
"And that's just what we know about through 911 calls," said city service-safety director Brian Allen.
In the same time period, a bad batch of heroin killed eight people and hospitalized dozens more in Akron.
In the picture, the boy is seen staring blankly as his grandmother Rhonda Pasek, sits slumped and unconscious, a bra strap hanging down her arm. The driver, Jim Acord, is also slumbering with his head back and mouth open.
The pair both live some 15 miles from East Liverpool, in New Manchester, West Virginia.
Acord told police that he was taking Pasek to the hospital in East Liverpool shortly after 3pm on September 7.
But he was spotted driving erratically by off-duty cop, Kevin Thompson, who pulled him over after he stopped behind a school bus.
Acord's head was "bobbing back and forth, his speech was unintelligible", Thompson wrote in his report, adding that he also "noted pin point pupils".
Acord then attempted to drive off and Thompson reached into the SUV and took the keys.
"The driver eventually went completely unconscious. Rhonda Pasek was completely unconscious and turning blue," wrote Thompson.
Pasek, 50, is due in court on Thursday. Acord has already been sentenced to two consecutive terms of 180 days in jail.
The decision to release the photograph, clearly showing the four-year-old's face, has ignited controversy.
Cops and East Liverpool city officials defend their action saying it was necessary to let everyone see his blank expression to depict the full horror of the heroin epidemic that has gripped the heartland.
DailyMail.com has pieced together all the strands surrounding the child's life, from court documents and interviews.
It shows how he has been passed around since the day he was born, long before the world became aware of his existence.
He is one of two boys McCullough had with Devon Pasek, Rhonda Pasek's 25-year-old son. She also has a third boy with a different man.
The boy pictured was born in Delaware in August, 2012, but within days his parents moved back to Ohio.
According to court papers, the boy was in the care of his octogenarian great grandparents, Dick and Barbara McCullough, almost from the start.
They signed affidavits in December 2012, four months after his birth, saying their granddaughter was "using illicit and illegal drug (sic) and specifically crack cocain (sic)". They said they found tinfoil with burnt residue on it in her purse.
They claimed in the court papers that the boy's father "is involved in narcotics trafficking", although he has never been charged.
When asked in the strip club if Devon Pasek is a drug dealer, Reva McCullough smiled and said "I have no idea about his profession".
She said she and Pasek are no longer together. Attempts to reach Devon Pasek were unsuccessful.
An October 2012 report in the East Liverpool paper the Morning Journal said Devon Pasek was patted down by cops during a drug bust "and officers reportedly found a hard object in his pants pocket that turned out to be a large sum of money wrapped in rubber bands".
"(T)he conduct of these parents is erratic at best and is certainly unreliable," Dick and Barbara McCullough wrote, saying their granddaughter and her boyfriend "are not providing appropriate care as would be in the best interest" of the child.
The McCulloughs - who live in East Liverpool just a quarter mile from where Pasek and Acord were arrested - were given full custody of the boy despite their advanced age.
They invited representatives of DailyMail.com into their house but then refused to talk.
In November, 2013, Reva and Devon applied for custody of their son, saying she "has a stable and happy home life to offer the child" and she and Pasek could offer "a good environment within which to raise a child".
They later withdrew their application.
By August, 2014, Barbara and Dick McCullough began to worry about their ability to look after the growing boy.
According to one report, they found they did not have the strength to lift the boy out of his crib.
"At the current time, while great-grandparents are physically and emotionally able to provide for the minor child, they are concerned about their ability to do so into the future due to their ages of 82 and 83 years old," they said.
They asked that custody be transferred to their daughter and son-in-law, Lori and Terry Lane, in South Carolina.
But Rhonda Pasek - the woman who was found passed out in the car - objected and asked that she be given custody saying she is "financially, mentally and emotionally" able to look after him.
The case dragged on until June 2015 when Rhonda Pasek was given partial custody, but within months she was asking for the McCulloughs to be held in contempt of court for refusing to hand the boy over "at one point sending the minor child out of state with unknown relatives".
Eventually, Rhonda Pasek was given full custody on July 25, 2016, a little over six weeks before she was found unconscious.
Judge Thomas Baronzzi acknowledged in his decision that the McCulloughs were "critical of the lifestyle of Rhonda Pasek," adding: "They indicate their belief that she continues to struggle with the abuse of alcohol."
But the judge said there was no evidence that either her drinking or her "diagnosed bipolar condition" affected her ability to care for the boy.
Baronzzi specifically ordered that Devon Pasek should be kept away from his son 'due to his ongoing involvement with drug abuse or drug sales'.
Even now the fate of the boy with the sad face is not sealed.
After Rhonda Pasek's arrest, a judge in West Virginia agreed he should go to live with a neighbor, 60-year-old Gene Kuhn in New Manchester.
But at the same time in Ohio, Judge Baronzzi was giving custody to Terry and Lori Lane in South Carolina.
Kuhn had custody of the boy just for the weekend, during which time he bought him a puppy and two new pairs of shoes and took him to church.
On Monday he sent him to Head Start School, only to be told later in the day that the child had been removed after the two judges had agreed that Ohio laws should apply.
"He was basically kidnapped from school," Kuhn told Daily Mail Online.
Kuhn said he was looking after the boy only until he could be reunited with his younger brother - who lives with Rhonda Pasek's sister in Dover, Delaware.
But that now looks unlikely to happen. Judge Baronzzi has set another hearing for September 26, insisting that Rhonda Pasek should have no contact with the boy at least until then.