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Mother whose overdose photo went viral goes viral again for all the right reasons

Mother whose overdose photo went viral back in the news for all the right reasons

Dan Klein | News 8 at 11

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — A photo of an Indiana mother, who was seemingly without hope, went viral in 2016. Now she’s back in the limelight for far different reasons.

Erika Hurt is sharing her story exclusively with News 8.

The first part of her story started with a viral photo taken by the Hope Police Department in 2016 showing Hurt overdosed behind the wheel of her car. Her 10-month old son was in the back seat at the time.

“I honestly thought there was no hope for me,” Hurt said.

But three years later, she’s got all the hope in the world and she and her son have a very different story to tell.

Hurt’s son Parker took a new photo which is also going viral for all the right reasons.

It’s still hard to look at the old one, even three years later, even though she knows the end result. An evening trip to the playground in Columbus with Parker is a snapshot that probably no one would have thought possible years ago.

Her absolute worst moment was caught on camera — the needle in hand in the front seat.

“It was October 22nd,” Erika said, adding she’ll never forget that day. “No. Never.”

But that was 2016.

Now, in November 2019, Parker is making a sprint for the the playground equipment at the park as his mother watches on.

And other things are different too.

Instead of motionless in the driver’s seat, Erika, 28, is all over the place trying to keep up with her son who turns four next month.

She’s been clean for three years now, ever since that fateful day.

“I can see my emotional pain. I can physically see it,” Erika said as she looked at her photo.

She agrees it was the worst photo she ever took as well as her best.

“I’m still grateful though because I still see it and I’m able to see that is where my addiction is going to take me every time if I do choose to relapse.”

She found it went viral in jail.

Angry, humiliated, but now ready for a change, motivated by her son first of all, then the support which came pouring in from strangers.

It was a parking lot she picked at random in her hometown of Hope which turned into her place of salvation. If she stopped somewhere else, she may not have been discovered in time.

“I feel blessed.”

So three years later, it was time for a new photo. Just like the old one, she wanted her son involved, but this time, front and center.

It was friend and photographer Ali Kiel, owner of Ali Elizabeth Photography who thought up Parker’s sign which reads “And now I get to have my mommy” made by another Columbus designer Keywords Co. and owner Jenni Kiesler.

“I can only imagine the fight every single day, even now three years later,” said Kiel.

It’s no surprise that Erika is a passionate advocate of Narcan and was worried some photographers might want to steer clear of the controversy.

Kiel has relatives who struggle with addiction.

“We have all seen the vicious cycle and this is the only way to put a stop to it for Parker so I’m excited for him,” Kiel said.

So three years later, mother and son are at the park, blessed with the chance to rebuild that bond.

“It’s amazing.”

And when they go home to Bartholomew County, to that little town which now seems appropriately named as Hope, for them it’s a word with much deeper meaning these days.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I live in Hope and now I am spreading so much hope so it’s pretty cool,” Erika said.

This new photo has gone viral too with 4,600 shares just on Erika’s Facebook page and being picked up by news stations around the country.

She’s now working in a factory and has had full custody of Parker for two years now, ever since getting out of rehab.

She also leads two meetings of Celebrate Recovery in Columbus which is a program that helps people who are struggling with addiction.

She tells News 8 she struggled with addiction for 10 years beginning when she was 15 years old and turned to drugs to try to escape some painful childhood memories.

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2 Columbus police officers arrested, facing charges of misconduct, ghost employment

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — Two Columbus police officers have been arrested on multiple charges including official misconduct and ghost employment.

According to Indiana State Police, Dan Meister and Ron May were arrested for allegedly working off-duty security jobs while also working on duty with the Columbus Police Department. An investigation into the officers began in November 2018 after a request was made by the Columbus Police Department.

Lt. Dan Meister and Sgt. Ron May allegedly worked overlapping shifts for both the police department and Columbus Regional Hospital between February 2015 and August 2018. The officers were paid by CPD and the hospital for the same hours worked on multiple occasions.

Meister had overlapped hours on 52 different occasions and May overlapped on 62 occasions, investigators say.

The investigation was turned over to a special prosecutor and arrest warrants were issued for the men on Friday. They were arrested Friday afternoon without incident and taken to the Bartholomew County Jail, police say.

Both officers are facing charges of official misconduct, ghost employment and theft.

May and Meister are expected to face initial hearings soon.

Information about how long they have worked with CPD was not immediately available.

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