by Cristin Severance and Kelsy Mittauer - CBS 11

DALLAS (CBS11) – Eight couples tell CBS 11’s Consumer Justice team they have been waiting between one and five years for their wedding pictures. They say they got nothing but the runaround until they called our Cristin Severance.

Cody and Vy Carmack hired Jessica D’Onofrio to shoot their engagement photos. It went so well, they hired her to photograph the wedding too. “She hung out with us,” Cody remembered. “We all had food, drinks, we talked. Super nice.”

That was September 2016. They’ve been waiting for their photos ever since. “It’s like having anxiety every single day about a problem that won’t go away,” said Cody. The Carmacks say when D’Onofrio did respond to their calls and emails, it was with different reasons for the delay including a destination wedding, a friend’s emergency, or busy holidays.

Ellaine Lloren and Gregg Castillo hired D’Onofrio for their 2012 wedding. They say everything went well on the big day, but weeks after the wedding it became difficult to reach the photographer. Months went by, then years. “It has been so long!” said Lloren.

The couple took D’Onofrio to small claims court last year. The Dallas County judge who oversaw the case says deputy constables could not find D’Onofrio to serve her with a subpoena, so they posted it on the door of her business. D’Onofrio did not appear on the day of the court hearing. Lloren and Castillo’s attorney presented their case and the judge ruled in their favor, awarding them $5,629 — the amount they paid D’Onofrio — plus court costs. D’Onofrio did not appeal the decision, and has not paid the couple.

“At this point, I’ll just take our photos!” said Lloren. “Just the photos — that’s all I want.”

Consumer Justice spoke with eight couples married between 2012 and 2016 who were still waiting on their photos, albums, and other items. Each couple paid D’Onofrio between $4,000 and $7,000. One couple divorced before receiving their photos. Another couple says it was a myriad of excuses over the months, from being stuck in a hurricane to running out of USBs and server space.

The whole thing has Vy Carmack ready for a reshoot. “I want to put my wedding dress on and find another photographer.”

She may not have to. After Consumer Justice reached out to D’Onofrio, we received an email from a “freelance studio support team.” The email said the team was brought in to help assist with any unshipped products. It included no names or identifying information but claimed all orders would be fulfilled by the end of October.

After more than a year of waiting, the Carmacks’ wedding photos were posted online the day we interviewed them. They say they still need the albums they paid for, but it’s a start. “It’s surreal!” said Cody. “I’ve seen people [in photos that] I still haven’t seen since the wedding.”

The studio support team reached out to all the other couples as well, including not-so-newlyweds Ellaine and Gregg. After five years of waiting on pictures of their marriage, the couple is heading for a new milestone. “We’re having a baby!” said Ellaine.

Since Consumer Justice got involved, four of the couples have received everything they paid for, while four others have been contacted with promises that their full orders are on the way. Jessica D’Onofrio sent the following statement via email:

Email from Jessica D’Onofrio

  The client complaints which you’ve spoken of have not only all been satisfied, but they have also been provided additional products as an apology for the inconvenience caused. I have no current clients behind on orders, and all past clients have been taken care of. The only albums I currently have in production are those for which the client is still working on selecting their images and approving the design layout. Any past complaints have been resolved amicably with clients, and I have no open complaints with current clients, only rave reviews. Life and health sometimes gets in the way of normal daily work and business, and I am deeply regretful that being forced to take time off for medical reasons caused any disruption in the normal flow of my work, but I am one woman running a business in a very demanding industry, and there is no one to stand in my place when unavoidable events occur. I believe all any business can do is learn from these moments and mistakes, own up to them, correct them, make them right, and set the wheels in motion to prevent them from happening in the future. Which is precisely why I have made sure these contracts were fulfilled and additional gifts provided to the clients, all easily verifiable via tracking information and client verification. If you take a moment to view any of their galleries, you would quickly see the level of dedication and passion put into every wedding I shoot. If my aim was to take advantage of anyone, I would certainly not work as hard as I do to create the kind of images I capture. I put heart into my work and the final product the client receives. While this small group may only represent 5% of my clientele, my goal and hope is always to create happy memories for all of my clients across the board, and I am working towards learning from the past to build a better experience for future clients. All we can do is learn and grow. While the context you’ve been given may not have given you this impression, I am deeply convicted to creating the most beautiful possible moments for each of my clients, and it shows in my work. I once shot a wedding the day after my father passed because I did not want to disappoint my bride. That is the level of commitment I’ve had to my clients. Like all humans, I have experienced unavoidable life circumstances and made mistakes, but I have corrected them.

  Considering these complaints have been brought to justice through amicable personal resolution, I do not understand why there is a need to comment further on this nor have it run as a story. The complaints are all resolved, and I have no new complaints with current clientele, and if anything have grown from the experience to better serve new clients. Mistakes were made, corrected, and improved upon. Justice was served. I do not understand the need to try and ruin a person’s business or reputation over mistakes made during a medically trying time in their life, when they have already addressed and corrected the situation. There is no justice to be served where it has already been given. It is also very difficult to provide a rebuttal or official statement without being given any sort of specific context regarding the story or its contents or specific individuals.