A MONTH long ordeal and a decade long court battle for Lisa and AJ Demaree started with some simple holiday snaps, the kind of photos almost every parent has of their children, in a photo album or stored deep in a folder on a smartphone.
The Arizona couple had been on holiday in August 2008, returned home and dropped off some photos for processing at their local Walmart.
When a staff member at the store saw photos of the couple's three daughters, aged five, four, and one at the time, they called police, setting off a shocking chain of events.
The photos in question were of the girls playing together in the bathtub, and the Walmart staff member flagged them for possible child abuse.
A detective showed up on the Demaree's doorstep a day later. The couple were questioned, their home was raided, and their friends and family were interviewed as part of an investigation to discover if the couple were sex offenders.
Worst of all, the Demaree's daughters were removed from their care. The two eldest girls were placed in one foster home, their youngest in another. Eventually, the three girls were reunited in the care of their grandparents, but their parents were prevented from seeing them for a month.
Authorities declined to bring charges against Lisa and AJ; no evidence of abuse was found.
In an interview with ABC in the United States not long after, Lisa Demaree described the situation as a "nightmare".
"I was in so much disbelief. I started to hyperventilate. I tried to breathe it out," she said.
The couple sued the local child protection authority, claiming authorities had no right to remove their daughters from their care. Over the course of nearly a decade, Lisa and AJ faced a series of defeats.
But, now, ten years later, the US Federal Court has ruled in their favour. "The social workers did not have reasonable cause to believe the children were at risk of serious bodily harm or molestation," a judicial panel wrote.
"Therefore, viewing the record most favourably to the Demarees, the defendants acted unconstitutionally in taking the three children away from home without judicial authorisation."
In the 2009 television interview, Lisa Demaree summed it up best. "As crazy as it may seem, what you may think are the most beautiful innocent pictures of your children may be seen as something completely different and completely perverted."
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