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Netflix's latest true crime documentary Girl in the Picture tells the story of a woman whose life was marked by abuse and her untimely death. Tonya Hughes, a.k.a. Sharon Marshall, was killed in an alleged hit-and-run, but through an investigation of foul play, it was quickly discovered that she and her older husband were not who they said they were. Her real name was Suzanne Sevakis, and she had been abducted as by Franklin Delano Floyd, who raised her as his daughter and later married her.
The chilling doc works in reverse, piecing together the story of Sevakis' life through the people who knew and loved her, including high school friends, co-workers, and eventually her birth mother. In addition to the mystery of Sevakis' identity, it also questions what happened to her two-year-old son, who was abducted by Floyd after being placed into foster care after her death.
What happened to Suzanne Sevakis (a.k.a. Sharon Marshall, a.k.a. Tonya Hughes)?
The Netflix doc starts from Tonya Hughes' death and works backwards, but the chronological account of Floyd's crimes started when he abducted and sexually assaulted a four-year-old at age 18. He was in and out of jail for most of his twenties before going on the run in 1973 and beginning to use aliases. Under the name Brandon Williams, he met and married Sevakis' mother, Sandra Willet, and moved her and her four children from North Carolina to Dallas, Texas. In the doc, Willet says that she returned home from a 30-day jail sentence for writing a bad check to find Floyd and her children gone.
Of the four children, Floyd kept Sevakis and raised her as his child, with the pair going by the names Warren and Sharon Marshall. It's unknown whether Floyd abused the girl throughout her life, but her high school friend Jenny Fisher, who appears in the doc, recalled an incident where Floyd raped his "daughter" at gunpoint during a sleepover. Sevakis was a gifted student and earned a full scholarship to study aerospace engineering, but she got pregnant, and told Fisher that "Daddy" wouldn't let her go to college. Floyd and Sevakis instead left town, moving to Tampa, Florida, and later settling in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they married and went by the names Clarence and Tonya Hughes. They also put up her child for adoption.
In both Tampa and Tulsa, Sevakis worked as an exotic dancer. Her fellow dancer in Tulsa, Karen Parsely, tried to convince Tonya to leave Floyd, but says Floyd always threatened to track her down if she did. Eventually, in 1990, Sevakis decided to run away with her secret boyfriend, and take her toddler Michael with them. Later that month, she was found on the side of an Oklahoma highway, with bruises and a head injury. Though her injuries were suspicious to Karen and hospital staff, she eventually died, and her death was assumed a hit-and-run.
Was Floyd prosecuted for his crimes?
Floyd wasn't arrested for Sevakis' death. Instead, he was caught four years later, when he abducted her six-year-old son Michael Hughes from his school. He had been seeking custody over the boy for years, but he wasn't his biological father and Michael was about to be adopted by his foster family. Floyd kidnapped the boy and the school principal by gunpoint, leaving the administrator tied to a tree in the nearby woods. In the investigation regarding Michael, authorities discovered that the man who was married to the boy's mother used to present himself as her father. That's when the story of Sevakis' life started coming to life.
After Floyd's arrest, and a trial where he represented himself along with a co-counsel, he was sentenced to 52 years without parole. Later on, authorities began suspecting him in the disappearance of Cheryl Ann Commesso, a co-worker and friend of Sevakis' in Tampa. The people who knew Floyd and Sevakis in Tampa say in the doc that while Floyd was behaving inappropriately with his "daughter," and watching Michael like a hawk, he was also becoming "obsessed" with 18-year-old Commesso. After having a public fight with Floyd one night, Commesso disappeared, and soon after he took Sevakis and Michael and left town.
Months after Floyd's arrest for kidnapping Michael, authorities discovered an envelope full of photos that had been duck-tapped to the bottom of his truck. It included photos of Sevakis as a young girl, as well as another woman who had been severely beaten. Commesso's remains had been discovered around the same time, and her injuries lined up with the woman in the photos. Floyd was tried and also found guilty of first-degree murder, earning him the death sentence. While he was tried for his crimes against Michael and Commesso, he was never charged for Sevakis' death.
Where is Franklin Delano Floyd now?
Floyd, now 79 years old, is still on death row. Per his Wikipedia page (opens in new tab), he's incarcerated at Union Correctional Institution in Florida. He didn't appear in the documentary, but everyone who spoke in the film described him as an objectively creepy and dangerous man who was overprotective about Sevakis and later Michael. They also described Sevakis as kind and lively, and noted that she was loved by her friends.
What happened to Sevakis' child, Michael Hughes?
For years after Sevakis' six-year-old child was abducted, there was very little knowledge of what actually happened to Michael Hughes. The young boy was missing and presumed dead, as Floyd did not give any details of Michael's fate throughout his trial and for several years of his imprisonment. Finally, a decade after Floyd's arrest, FBI investigators got the man to open up about what happened.
The break in the case came when Megan Dufresne, an adoptee seeking out her birth mother, discovered that she was Sevakis' child. After she gave her DNA to the authorities (having read a book about Floyd's crimes), the FBI decided to try again at getting Sevakis' identity and Michael's whereabouts out of Floyd. In 2015, Floyd finally confessed that he had murdered the six-year-old, shooting the child twice in the back of the head.
What happened to Megan Dufrense?
Sevakis had three children: the unknown child she conceived in high school, Michael, and a third child, a girl, born in 1989 in New Orleans. After being placed for adoption, the girl, Megan, was raised by Mary and Dean Joseph Dufresne. The identity of her biological father is still unknown, though there's a strong possibility that it's Floyd.
During her appearance in the doc, Megan Dufresne says that she wants to live up to the memory of her birth mother. "Becoming a parent gave me even more respect for my birth mother, because she gave up two children, if not more, knowing that it was better for the kids," she said.
Megan currently has two children, and one of them is named Michael, after her brother.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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