"There is absolutely no public benefit pursuant to the investigation and the preparation of that police report for those photographs to go anywhere other than in the evidence locker," he said."
The pictures were passed around to thousands of sites, and the Catsourases began receiving the images masked behind anonymous e-mails and text messages. A fake MySpace page was created, ostensibly as a tribute site to Nikki's life. But friends and family were again met with the horrific photos, captioned by "false and degrading labels" about Nikki and her family, according to the lawsuit.
"Everybody I know has either seen them or they know someone that's seen them," said Lesli. "This was an expensive car and it was a young girl and she was also a very pretty girl. It was also Halloween, so it was just the perfect recipe for something like this."
"People say that she deserved to die," said Christos. "She was irresponsible, driving fast, we understand that. But she didn't deserve to die, and especially in the manner that she died."
Though the Catsourases hired a company to remove the photos from the Internet, the images live on. "It spreads in bursts, and when it spreads it happens very fast," said Michael Fertik, the founder of ReputationDefender, a company that helps clients remove items from the Internet.
"We go at it by just direct human to human contact. We reach out to the people who are posting them, or chiefly in these cases, hosting the website where they are posted, and saying 'Look, this is in no one's interest. You're getting less pleasure out of this than these people are suffering pain."
"We've asked them to please take down the pictures, and they've said, 'No, I don't have to because I've got my First Amendment rights," says Lesli Catsouras of the Web sites that still carry the photos. "But we have rights, you know, we're living in the United States of America."
One such Web site did not remove the photos. It's owner declined a request to be interviewed, but provided a statement to ABC News, which reads in part:
"Wanting to view photographs of tragic events is a part of human nature. It's a very rare person who doesn't rubberneck as they pass the scene of an accident, because we're all interested in a glimpse into death and misfortune. When we look upon photographs, like those of a young girl who has been violently struck down in the prime of her life by a moment's recklessness, we gaze upon our own mortality, and we think about how easily this could have been us. …While I sympathize with the family and have no desire to perpetuate the pain of their loss, I also realize the reality of the internet. Once photographs like these leak online, they spread like a virus. … For those who find photographs of deceased individuals disturbing, they have the option of not visiting the sort of sites that display those images. (Most of those sites have ample warnings before anything disturbing is shown.) But the right of the rest of us to view such images should not be infringed upon."
After an internal investigation, the California Highway Patrol identified two dispatchers, Thomas O'Donnell and Aaron Reich as being responsible for the leaked images. Citing "pending litigation," the highway patrol has yet to comment on the case, but it sent a letter to the family admitting the mistake.