Skip to main content

Parents sue over Facebook photos of dead daughter

By Jordana Ossad, CNN
Click to play
Parents sue Facebook over crime photo
  • Parents sue Facebook in an effort to compel the company to turn over the image
  • A Facebook spokesman said, "The case is without merit"
  • EMT took, posted photos of murdered woman

New York (CNN) -- The parents of a murder victim are suing Facebook after a paramedic pleaded guilty to photographing their daughter's corpse and posting the image to the social networking site, according to court documents.

Caroline Wimmer, 26, was found by her parents, Ronald and Martha, after she was strangled with a hair-dryer cord in March 2009 in Staten Island, New York.

Paramedic Mark Musarella -- who responded to their corresponding emergency call -- later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after posting to Facebook the photographs he took, the documents said.

"All I want is my daughter's picture back," Martha Wimmer told CNN. "I want it destroyed," noting that the image is no longer posted on the site.

The couple is suing Facebook in an effort to force the company to turn over the image, identify who may have downloaded the photograph and prevent the image from being further disseminated, according to the couple's attorney Ravi Batra.

They "would like to move on," Batra said, adding that "it's very tough to heal when you know there are sick people out in the world look at their dead daughter's image."

But the social networking site could be protected by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which says "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said, "The case is without merit." "We will fight it vigorously," he added.

The parents are also suing their daughter's convicted murderer, Calvin Lawson, paramedic Musarella, the city of New York and Greenleaf Arms Incorporated -- the company that owns the apartment building where Wimmer's body was found.

The pair are also suing Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano and Richmond University Medical Center, where Musarella had been employed.

"This lawsuit assumes traditional defendants as well as nontraditional defendants, including the City of New York and Facebook, that are unique to this case arising out of cybercrime," Batra said.

Connie Pankratz, a spokeswoman for the city's law department, called the situation "tragic." "We extend our sympathy to the family," she said.

Pankratz said the city has "not yet received the legal papers, but will review them thoroughly upon receipt."

Meanwhile, Musarella has forfeited his EMT certification and was ordered to 200 hours of community service.

The image was discovered by an acquaintance of Musarella, who alerted Richmond University Medical Center, according to Batra.

Wimmer's murderer, Lawson, is serving 25 years-to-life.

Martha Wimmer said Tuesday that she is traveling to the state capitol in support of pending legislation that would enact harsher penalties for a public worker who broadcasts or publishes an image of a crime scene outside their official duties.

The law would raise the offense to a Class E felony.