After nearly five years, trial is set to begin next week in a lawsuit filed by the family of Jessica Mejia, a 20-year-old Chicago woman killed in a car crash caused by her ex-boyfriend. Mejia’s family is suing the Cook County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly undressing Jessica’s body after the crash and taking nude photos of her by the side of the road.

Jessica was riding in a car driven by her ex-boyfriend Nicholas Sord, now 26, when he crashed the car; she was killed when the car crashed into a pole and rolled over, while he suffered only a broken wrist. In November 2014, Sord pled guilty to aggravated DUI causing a fatal accident, a felony, and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

Advertisement

In a lawsuit brought in 2010, the Mejia family alleged that Cook County investigators arriving on the scene photographed Jessica in the nude without medical justification. The suit adds that investigators “failed to treat decedent with the dignity and the respect due her by removing her clothes, by photographing her nude body in various positions none of which were required by protocol, and by allowing passersby and other responders to view her naked person.”

At the time, a Cook County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson called the allegations “bizarre,” adding, “There were multiple independent witnesses on the scene that night and crime scene photographs taken which would have prevented the scenario described from happening. We’re sorry for the family’s loss.”

Now that the case is set for trial, though, the Chicago Tribune reports, the Cook County’s sheriff’s office isn’t denying that the photos were taken, and the Trib was shown copies of the photos by the Mejia family’s lawyer. Now, though, Cook County says they were necessary procedurally: “The family suffered an unimaginable loss, and the crime scene photos were taken as our officers investigated this crime and were instrumental in securing a conviction against the person responsible for this tragic death,” a different spokesperso told the paper. “In no way were these photos intended to cause harm to the family.”

Advertisement

Mejia’s mother Christina also told the Tribune that she felt the photos helped contribute to a perception that her daughter was somehow “responsible” for the accident. She said that false rumors spread after the accident that Sord had crashed the car because Jessica was “straddling” him.

“(People) think my daughter died from having sex, not from somebody being drunk and killing her,” Christina told the paper. “Because they took these photos, by the time everybody else got to the scene, all the ambulances and everybody else, she was partially naked because they made her naked,” Mejia said. “So the rumors, and the allegations ... they made it believable.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post said Mejia had been thrown from the vehicle; the lawsuit alleges she was in the vehicle when she died and that Cook County investigators moved her body when they arrived at the scene. I regret the error.

Image via Shutterstock.