“Nikki was a free-spirited, polite, sweet young lady. Absolutely a great daughter,” says Christos.
“She was always surprising us and amazing us,” Leslie, Nikki’s mother, adds. “She wanted to teach her sisters how not to make any of the mistakes that she would make growing up.”
Their lives were changed forever October 31, 2006.
Lesli recalls that they had lunch as a family, then Christos left for work. “Nikki went upstairs to take a shower, and I just saw the garage door slam shut. She drove away smiling, almost like, ‘I’ll be right back,'” Lesli recalls.
“My wife called me and in my gut, I felt that something had happened to Nikki,” Christos says. Their daughter was in a horrific car accident. “I drove to where the accident was. While I was standing there, they were actually lifting up the car, and I fell to the ground. They painted a picture for us ” that Nikki had severe head trauma. The sergeant on duty just said, ‘Remember her beautiful, smiling face. That’s the way that you need to remember her.'”
Within days after the accident, photos of the scene appeared online. There were close ups of Nikki’s nearly decapitated head. Allegedly, the pictures got out when a California Highway Patrol dispatcher e-mailed them to friends. They then spread throughout the Internet.
“Somebody had put up a MySpace page, saying that they were Nikki. Everybody in our family received these photographs through MySpace â€” very close-up, colored shots. They were very intense and graphic,” Lesli shares.
“Nikki’s been called some of the worst names I think anybody could call any individual ” everything from the C word that deserved to die to a whore,” Christos says. “When people are trolling, I wonder if they really realize that the things they are saying are about someone’s child.”
[AD]”The photos have been on thousands of websites. Every time I look at a computer, I fear that I’m going to see the photographs of my daughter,” Lesli reveals. “I guess I would have said that burying my child was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, until I saw those photos and saw what happened to her.”
“Why would anybody want to share such horrific, graphic pictures with other individuals?” Christos asks. “I think the saddest thing for me is that I still hope that Nikki is going to come home.”
“First off, I can’t be objective about this. It’s sick. I’m so very, very sorry that you all are being victimized like this. It’s just horrible,” Dr. Phil tells Christos and Lesli. “So employees of CHP did this. They let them out.”
“Yes,” Lesli confirms.
“Have you been able to get the pictures off of the Internet in any way?” Dr. Phil asks.
“No, not at all,” Christos replies. “We don’t own the pictures. California Highway Patrol owns the pictures … We’ve been attempting for several years to get the copyright. They won’t respond, really, at this point. And we’ve tried to go to the websites themselves, and some of them have been cooperative but for the most part, they tell us to take a hike.”
“When you see these pictures, what does it do to you?” Dr. Phil asks.
“I get angry. I’m really struggling with my anger,” Lesli shares. “I have anger toward a lot of people, not just the Internet but with the California Highway Patrol, and their lack of cooperation. Every time we turn around, there’s something else on the Internet that’s just harmful toward us.”
[AD]”I want to share what some of these people are saying, so the viewers understand the gravity of what we’re talking about. Are you all OK with that?” Dr. Phil asks Lesli and Christos, noting that they’ve seen the statements he’s going to read.
“Yes,” Lesli replies.
“One is, ‘Whooo, I am here, Daddy.’ Then you can just read them: ‘I’m a dead whore.’ â€˜I’m a stupid bitch.’ â€˜I was so happy! I raped her corpse over and over.’ I’ll let you read the rest of them. I just don’t want it even coming out of my mouth,” a disgusted Dr. Phil says. “I can tell you, from a psychological perspective, that these are sick people that have no capacity for empathy.”
Dr. Phil introduces the family’s attorney, Keith Bremer. “He’s been fighting an uphill battle to have these photos taken off the Web,” he says. “Keith, it’s almost impossible, is it not?”
“We have experts that we work with that assist us in trying to identify who these people are that are posting these. Sometimes, we have success in finding out who they are, and then we can write them letters and identify that if they don’t remove it, then we’ll go after them civilly for what they’re doing. Sometimes we have success,” he explains. “A lot of times, we can’t identify who is actually doing that posting, and there’s not much that we can do, so then we have to go to the portal and ask the portal to remove that.”
Dr. Phil introduces Nikki’s sister, Danielle. “What is your reaction to this? I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with it,” he says.
“Thank you. It’s hard for me to just, like, look up anything,” she replies, voice quavering.
“Does it change your memory?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Yes, it does,” she says.
[AD]”We did contact CHP to participate in the show. They declined and sent us a statement,” Dr. Phil says.”I hope and pray that this doesn’t overshadow your memories of your daughter. This was one of the most delightful, vibrant young women you could ever want to know. She was just so wonderful, and I’m sorry for your loss and for what you’re going through since then.”
Dr. Phil faces the camera and says, “If you’re involved in this, even peripherally, even just sharing it like gossip, where you just say, ‘Wow,’ and send it on, you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to be in this chain. When we think about this wonderful girl, let’s think about what we’re seeing right there. Let’s not think about anything else.”