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Websites Post Gruesome Crash Photos that Victim's Family is Powerless to Remove

By May 8, 2009

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The law is lagging behind the internet, and evidence of that widening gap is everywhere. Here's one of the worst examples.

An 18-year-old girl's gruesome death in a horrific car accident continues to haunt a California family as graphic crime scene photos circulate years after her tragic ending. And the parents of the victim, Nikki Catsouras, can't do a thing to stop these photos from being published online. Why? Because displaying a photo of her nearly decapitated head hanging out of a car window may be insensitive and tasteless, but it isn't a crime. From the May 4, 2009 issue of Newsweek:

Just days after Nikki's death, her father, a local real-estate agent, clicked open an e-mail that appeared to be a property listing. Onto his screen popped his daughter's bloodied face, captioned with the words "Woohoo Daddy! Hey daddy, I'm still alive." Nikki's sisters—Danielle, 18, Christiana, 16, and Kira, 10—have managed to avoid the photos, but live in fear that they'll happen upon them. And so the Catsourases are spending thousands in legal fees in an attempt to stop strangers from displaying the grisly images—an effort that has transformed Nikki's death into a case about privacy, cyber-harassment and image control....

[P]hotos of the crash scene....showed up on Web sites, many of them dedicated to hard-core pornography and death. A fake MySpace page was set up in Nikki's name, where she was identified as a "stupid bitch." "That spoiled rich girl deserved it," one commenter wrote.

Cyber crime expert Alexis A. Moore, who has written about women and cyberstalking for About.com, notes that this case is "a disturbing example that cyber crime and cyber harassment is here to stay. More importantly, although not all cyber acts are deemed crimes, this does not make them any less significant or severe as those crimes that are classified as class 1 felonies."

Do you think that the distribution and display of these photos is a crime? If it was your child, what would you do?

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May 8, 2009 at 9:33 pm
(1) Bliss says:

God Bless your family, Angel Nikki. You are in Heaven and you know very well who are the real monsters and criminals.
Please, dear Nikki pray for your beloved ones, as always. If possible pray for Ms. Suleman who is also mistreated by us.

May 13, 2009 at 6:26 pm
(2) Joan says:

The Catsouras family is upset because their daughter’s death was news and the pictures were hard to look at. As for emotional harm or damage to the family, please they just want the 20 million dollars. Why was a 16 year old driver in a $150,000.00 car to begin with and is not an older Honda subcompact good enough like the rest of these teenage drivers.

May 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm
(3) Teresa says:

It’s wrong for them to have allowed photos of the accident. That law needs to be changed. It will always be there for the SICK SICK people of this world to see.

March 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm
(4) kelli gray says:

so sorry for your loss,and what your family has been through,this is a very sick unsympathic world,its not fair………..

September 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm
(5) pissedguy says:

Those people or group whatever that sent the message are the ones that ruin it for the rest of us.
Did they really have to go that far as to send the father the picture?
They deserve and I wanna rip their heads off

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