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A family divided

After a car accident killed Karl and Marisa Heiss and left their daughter Aliana severely brain damaged, the children were caught in an international custody battle between grandparents.

Karl Heiss and his wife, Marisa Bauducco-Heiss, stand with their children Aliana, left, and Alden Bauducco-Heiss in front of their home in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on July 19, 2008. Three months later, Marisa and Karl died in a car accident which also severely brain-damaged Aliana -- and set off an international custody battle between their maternal and paternal grandparents.

Anonymous / Courtesy Fred Heiss

Aliana Bauducco-Heiss, dressed for Halloween in 2005, was severely brain injured in the car accident that killed her parents.

Anonymous / Courtesy Fred Heiss

Aliana Bauducco-Heiss was photographed playing on a home-made swing in 2005 near the Bonners Ferry, Idaho, house where she lived before the 2008 car accident that injured her and killed her parents.

Anonymous / Courtesy Fred Heiss

Karl and Marisa Heiss told friends they loved the close-knit Bonners Ferry, Idaho, community where the family lived first in a teepee and then in a two-story house using straw bale construction for walls. Here, a caution sign and a bouquet of artificial flowers hang on a fence lining the road to the house.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Annabelle and Fred Heiss, center, standing with their daughter, Maia Heiss, left, and Fred's sister, Karen Heiss Abdelrahman, right, in front of a straw-bale insulated house that was built by their son Karl Heiss, and his wife Marisa, near Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The children now live with their maternal grandmother Violeta Conti in Argentina after a custody battle with their paternal grandparents in the U.S.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Aliana Bauducco-Heiss, left, jokes with her aunt Patricia Bauducco in Ushuaia, Argentina. Alaina was close to death following the October 2008 car accident that killed her parents and caused irreversible damage to 70 percent of her brain.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

Aliana Bauducco-Heiss is pushed by her aunt Carina Bauducco as they go for a stroll in Ushuaia, Argentina, on Oct. 3, 2009, exactly a year after the deadly accident.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

Violeta Conti gives her granddaughter Aliana Bauducco-Heiss a kiss at a hospital in Ushuaia, Argentina. Aliana's parents left a handwritten will that gave Violeta Conti custody 11 months of the year and her paternal grandparents, Annabell and Fred Heiss, custody the other month. The Heisses contested the custody arrangement.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

Violeta Conti cares for her orphaned grandchildren at her home in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

Alden Bauducco-Heiss, left, reading with his aunt Patricia Bauducco in her home in Ushuaia, Argentina. Now 8, Alden has recovered from the severe whiplash he suffered in the car accident that killed his parents and led to his sister's brain damage.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

The extend Bauducco family gathers at Violeta Bauducco's home in Ushuaia, Argentina, where her 8-year-old grandson Alden and 10-year-old Alaina are being raised. Right to left: Carina Bauducco, bottom right, Alden Bauducco-Heiss, Violeta Conti, Aliana Bauducco-Heiss, Alejandro Bauducco holding his son Tiziano, and Patricia Bauducco holding her children Tobias, Joaquin and Casandra.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP