Daddy Was Watching: Secret Photos of Nude Daughter Weren't Illegal Under Massachusetts Law

This story originally aired May 29, 2003.

Crystal's parents were away on vacation when she made a disturbing discovery on her father's computer: nude pictures — and she was the subject.

Spied on by Dad

Crystal says her father, Ron, who had adopted her when she was a young girl, retrieved the pictures via a computer Web camera in her bedroom, which had previously been in his office. The photos stretched back five years, to when she was 19.

She made the discovery while her parents were on vacation. Crystal told her mother when they returned from their trip.

"When I think about it, I feel like I'm going to vomit," Crystal said.

Crystal would not give her last name to protect her family's privacy, and she didn't want pictures of her family, including her father, shown.

When Crystal tried to turn copies of the photos over to police to press criminal charges against her dad, she got another surprise. Under state law in Massachusetts, it was not a crime to take pictures of someone without his or her knowledge, even nude pictures.

At the time in 2003, Elizabeth Scheibel, Northwestern District Attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, told ABC News that state law had a major loophole. While it was a crime to make audio recordings of adults without their knowledge, people could take all the pictures they wanted without being arrested or prosecuted.

Camera Aimed at Bed

The trouble began when Crystal moved back into her family home in Easthampton, Mass., at age 19.

While she was gone, her father had used Crystal's old bedroom as his home office, complete with a computer equipped with a Web camera. When she moved back into her old room, his computer remained in her bedroom. Crystal had no idea that the Web camera could be on when the computer was off.

But one day Crystal was lying in bed when she noticed the lens of the camera that had been sitting on top of the computer was now aimed at her bed. Previously, it had always been pointed in a different direction.

Crystal then called her computer-savvy friend, Jordan Shapiro, to help her do a little detective work. Shapiro said the images he found shocked him.

"I found hundreds of pictures of Crystal," he said. "There were no photographs of her with clothes on. In every single one she was partially dressed, or getting undressed, or doing something undressed."

Crystal said she still can't believe that her father wouldn't face any criminal charges for taking the pictures. Since no formal charges could be made against him, the computer and all the images were returned to her father's possession.

"That made it even worse. That made it 10 times worse," Crystal said. "It's like being kicked twice. I didn't believe it."

Crystal said her mother filed for divorce, and her father moved in with his parents. She said her mother told her that her father said he took the pictures to make sure she wasn't using drugs.

Scheibel said the case still angers her, since she knew there was nothing she could do to help Crystal. "Our hands are tied," Scheibel said. "It's reprehensible. It makes people sick to know that this goes on."

Crystal's efforts to share her painful story with the world were eventually successful in encouraging Massachusetts lawmakers to pass legislation in 2004 that now makes it illegal for anyone to take nude photos of an adult without his or knowledge. Her father was never prosecuted for his actions.

"That's the point of this," Crystal said. "A lot of people didn't know it wasn't illegal. A lot of people thought it was illegal."