Netflix’s latest true-crime documentary film, “Girl in the Picture,” is a chilling experience about a series of horrific discoveries. On a 1990 night in Oklahoma City, a woman was found by the side of the road having suffered a road accident, and she passed away from her injuries after some time. Once she was identified, though, certain gradual revelations about her identity and her life shocked the authorities and everyone following the case. Director Skye Borgman overall does a very good job in her presentation, as “Girl in the Picture” brings a certain uneasy effect on viewers, and then finally a slight sense of catharsis by the end.
What Is The Documentary’ Girl In The Picture’ About?
Late into the night in April 1990, a group of men driving by a seemingly highway road come across some debris and decide to look into the matter. Getting out, they find a young woman lying injured and immediately notify authorities, who then rush her to the hospital. As the woman receives emergency treatment, an older man calls up and introduces the still-unidentified woman as his wife, Tonya Hughes, a stripper by profession from Tulsa. Tonya does not survive the accident, though, as she passes away soon after, leaving behind her grieving husband and a young son named Michael. The woman was majorly loved by all her colleagues, dancers and performers at a strip club named Secrets, and they wanted to contact her parents or greater family to let them know of her sad demise. They searched for Tonya Tadlock in the local phone directory and contacted her home. Thinking that they were talking to Tonya’s mother, the friends told her of her daughter’s death, to which the woman surprisingly claimed that her daughter, named Tonya, had passed away twenty years ago, when she was just a few months old. The woman’s closest friend from work, Karen, had been called by Tonya’s husband, Clarence Hughes, from the hospital, informing her of Tonya’s accident. But there were a number of things that immediately seemed odd—the doctors and nurses felt Tonya’s injuries did not match up with ones generally found in road accident cases and suspected some foul play; Karen knew that Tonya was not in a happy marriage, as she was extremely scared of her husband and she was not allowed to take her son Michael anywhere alone; and after Tonya’s death, the hospital workers told Karen that young Michael was not talking at all, and she understood that something was not right. With the help of the hospital, Karen contacted Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services, who then took Michael away from his house and put him up for foster care.
The young boy quickly found a foster home in the Bean family, and remained with them from when he was two years old till he was six. During these four years, Clarence Hughes tried a number of legal proceedings to get his son back, claiming that he was wrongly being taken away from him. However, the Beans still claim that the boy was never happy to visit his father, as Clarence was still allowed to see his son occasionally, until the DHS conducted a DNA test and concluded that Clarence was actually not the biological father of Michael. As shocking as this revelation was, what followed was even more shocking. In September of 1994, Clarence Hughes entered Michael’s school with a gun in his hand, held the principal hostage, and then kidnapped the boy from there. Using the principal’s semi-truck, Clarence drove the two out to the woods, where he tied the principal to a tree, gagging shut his mouth, and then drove away with the six-year-old child.
Who Really Was Clarence Hughes? What Happened To Michael?
The local police department of Choctaw, Oklahoma, got involved and, realizing that a six-year-old boy had been kidnapped with no trace of the abductor yet, quickly contacted the FBI. Agent Joe Fitzpatrick was handed the case, and he remained influential in the whole saga till the very end. Digging up police information about Clarence Hughes, the FBI quickly learned that the man was actually named Franklin Floyd, and had used various different aliases throughout the years. Floyd already had a long criminal record, having kidnapped a young girl earlier, robbed a bank, and then attacked a woman. He had already served around eight to nine years in prison and was then arrested a year after being released. Having been granted bail, Floyd never appeared in court and remained a fugitive for almost twenty years till now. With all this information now released on television, in an attempt to find young Michael, Tonya’s colleagues from Secrets went to the police with their information and convinced the FBI that she was probably killed by Floyd himself. However, this release of information also brought out even more bizarre results, when a woman from the US state of Georgia contacted the FBI claiming that she knew Tonya but that she was not actually called Tonya but Sharon Marshall. This woman, Jenny Fisher, was Sharon’s best friend in school and had spent a lot of time together with her while growing up. She and a few other close friends of Sharon from the time describe the woman as someone who was always helping and inspiring others, someone they all dearly loved. Along with that, Sharon was also a brilliantly intelligent student and had even been selected for the aerospace engineering department at Georgia Tech. However, the young woman’s life came crashing down when she got pregnant with a baby, and now she told Jenny that she would have the baby and then put it up for adoption.
When Jenny saw Floyd’s photos on the television, she was also very surprised that the man was being called Sharon’s husband, for she was absolutely certain that it was the same man she and all her friends knew as Sharon’s father back in Georgia. Talking with the FBI, Jenny now reveals the very extent of how disgusting a man Floyd was, as she reveals about a night when she stayed over at Sharon’s house. Her friend showed her lingerie that her father used to buy for her, and Jenny found this extraordinarily strange, for she thought they were not appropriate gifts for a father to give to his teenage daughter. She was then absolutely shattered and heartbroken when Floyd entered the room with a gun in his hand and sexually violated Sharon, apparently his own daughter, right in front of her eyes. The next morning, Sharon claimed that her father was like that, and tried to somehow convince Jenny that she was alright and that she was by now used to it. It was not very long after, in 1988, when Sharon and her father left Georgia and moved away, now to Tampa, Florida. Here, she started working as a dancer in the Mons Venus strip club and also privately worked as a sex worker, which was strictly not part of her job at the club. Sharon told her new friends that she was told to do all of this by her father, who she understood was a terrible man, but one she could not leave because he exercised full control over her baby son. At the time, Sharon had baby Michael, which suggests that she did not put him up for adoption as she had previously thought, but had actually kept him.
Floyd’s unimaginably perverse and terrifying character now came out more as he approached a colleague of Sharon’s from the dance club, Cheryl Commesso, to spend more time with him and his family. Although most people knew Cheryl to be a good friend of Sharon, as she started visiting their house often, a neighbor revealed what all was actually up. The neighbor, a young girl at the time, used to regularly visit the house to babysit Michael, and once came across a videotape which Floyd accidentally played in front of her, in which Sharon and Cheryl were shot topless on a local beach. Understandably, she had found it extraordinarily weird, much like Jenny earlier, that a father would do something like that with his daughter and her friend. Gradually, it became clear that Floyd was having sex with Cheryl regularly, forcibly, in all probability, and Cheryl was trying to get out of the situation. A dancer at the club recalls seeing the woman having an altercation with Floyd in which the man threatened to kill her. Soon after, Floyd’s neighbors got word that the family was having to quickly leave Florida for some reason, and they even witnessed their house explode and burn down. What most suspected at the time was later easily confirmed—Floyd had hired someone to blow up their house after they left, to erase any evidence of his heinous acts. With all this information, the FBI gathered evidence that it was on their way from Florida to Oklahoma that Floyd changed his name to Clarence, his daughter’s to Tonya, and officially married her to take on new roles and live the rest of their lives. All of this was disrupted when Tonya possibly started to fight back against his abhorrent acts, and when she finally died in 1990, at the age of just 20. The FBI quickly started to track down all the aliases that Floyd used, and they found him in Kentucky, where he had applied for a driving license. Posing to be delivering him his license, the authorities arrested the man and brought charges of kidnapping and other smaller charges, as a homicide could still not be proved against him. The court ruled the man guilty, and he was sentenced to fifty-two years, but the FBI and especially Joe Fitzpatrick, wanted more. They knew that Floyd had definitely committed a murder, if not two, but there was no way to pin it on him. Little Michael was still missing, and Floyd did not release any information about him, lying about the matter whenever he was asked. A collection of photographs belonging to the man had been found by the authorities, and these contained terribly gross adult images of his own daughter and another unknown teenager, who was later recognized as Cheryl Commesso. Finally, in 1995, a mostly decomposed body was found in Florida, and it was ascertained to be that of Cheryl, who had been missing since 1989, and the rest of the evidence against Floyd fell into place. Franklin Floyd was put up for trial again and was found guilty of first-degree murder, with a resulting sentence of the death penalty. While he still remained silent about Michael’s whereabouts, the police were now almost certain that the child had been killed. In 2015, a pair of FBI agents posed as attorneys wanting to help Floyd, who was still awaiting his death sentence. They interrogated him, and now he finally revealed that he had indeed killed Michael by shooting him twice in the head. Although Floyd mentioned the place where he had apparently buried the child’s body, the authorities could not find it over a long search, and no remains of Michael have been found yet.
‘Girl In The Picture’ Ending Explained: What Was Sharon Or Tonya’s Real Identity?
With Floyd now in police custody awaiting the death penalty, what became important was to find out the real identity of Tonya Hughes or Sharon Marshall. It was very clear to the FBI that Sharon could not have been Floyd’s biological daughter, as she had been born in 1969 or 1970, and Floyd had been in prison from 1963 to 1972. To find out who Sharon was actually and who her biological parents were became something quite personal to Joe Fitzpatrick. In 2004, the investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck published a book titled “A Beautiful Child” about Sharon Marshall and the terrible woes she faced in her short life. Birkbeck attempted to find the woman’s real identity while talking to Franklin Floyd in prison, but the man did not disclose anything about her and instead relentlessly spoke about how he had been mentally, physically, and sexually assaulted numerous times throughout his childhood. He also denied having committed any of the crimes he was charged with, and kept saying that he had been framed. But sometime after the book’s launch, when the matter was now more public and accessible, a woman named Megan stepped up and claimed to be Sharon’s biological daughter. It was revealed that Sharon had been pregnant thrice, and Michael had been her first child. The next two, one of whom was Megan, had been put up for adoption by her on the wish of Floyd. Finally, in 2014, with the help of DNA tests and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, it was found out that Sharon Marshall’s real name was Suzanne Maria Sevakis.
In the 1970s, Franklin Floyd met a woman named Sandi Chipman and managed to win her trust. At the time, Sandi had three young children from her first marriage, had recently gone through a second divorce, and was almost devastated with life when Floyd came into her life and seemed like a savior, whom she quickly married. But she, too, quickly realized how terrible and dangerous a man Floyd was but found no escape from him. In 1975, she was sentenced to prison for a month, and during this time, Floyd kidnapped her three children and vanished from the place. He then kept the eldest girl, Suzanne, who was around 5 years old at the time, with him and put up the other two for adoption. With Suzanne’s real identity out, her biological parents, Sandi and Cliff, are also tracked down. Finally, in 2017, with all her close friends and relatives, including her biological father, gathered around, Tonya’s tombstone was replaced with that of her real name and a real epitaph from her biological daughter, who did not get to personally know her, but who really admired her from all her stories. Such a personal presentation at the end of “Girl in the Picture” does touch an emotional chord, despite it being very clear that such a finding is perhaps too insignificant compared to the young woman’s life. Nonetheless, with everything that Suzanne had to go through, the least that could have been done for her was to uncover her real identity, one that even she did not know of. Ultimately, “Girl in the Picture” ends by dedicating itself to Suzanne Sevakis and Michael Hughes, and does not make any more mention of Franklin Floyd, who still awaits his death sentence in prison to this day.
“Girl in the Picture” is a 2022 Crime Thriller documentary directed by Skye Borgman.