Released on July 6 on Netflix, Girl In The Picture plunges into the abyss of a news item that lasted more than 27 years.
Oklahoma City, 1990. On the night of April 25, several men saw a pile of broken glass along an abandoned road. A little further on, the inanimate body of a young blond woman still lies on the side. The latter has obviously been crushed, swings between life and death, and is immediately transferred to the nearest hospital. On the spot, a man, Clarence Hughes, comes to his bedside. This is his wife Tonya, a 21-year-old stripper, mother of their 2-year-old son. She succumbed to her injuries a few days after her hospitalization.
Very quickly, the inconsolable spouse turns into a suspect in the eyes of the authorities. Suspected of having played a role in the murder of his wife, he sees himself withdrawing custody of his child, Michael – then placed in a foster family – and demanding a paternity test. While this turns out to be negative, attesting that Clarence Hughes and the child have no relationship, the investigators contact the mother of the missing person. With amazement, the latter assures them that she lost her daughter 20 years earlier, when she was only 18 months old. The mystery then thickens around this young stranger: who was she really? Who killed her? Was she safe with her husband?
Released on July 6 on Netflix, the documentary Girl In The Picture: crime in the abyss plunges into the abyss of a case with multiple twists, between murders, rapes and kidnappings. The film, based on the research of investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck, brings to life all the elements of the investigation from his book, A Beautiful Child, which allowed the resolution of the case, almost 27 years later.
In video, the trailer of Girl In The Picture: crime in the abyss on Netflix
From Sharon Marshall to Tonya Hughes
In 1994, four years after the death of the one who presented herself as Tonya Hughes, the case took a turn. Clarence Hughes, who no longer has visitation rights with his child, enters his presumed son’s elementary school and kidnaps him. On television, the images of the man and the little boy are relayed on all the news channels, bringing to light the murder of his wife. A godsend, since this is how Jenny Fisher, residing in the town of Forest Park, Georgia, then recognizes the face of her former best friend from high school, a certain Sharon Marshall.
In 1984, six years before the murder, the two friends were both students in the high school of the city of Forest Park, in the East of the United States. Sharon Marshall was a promising teenager, a “gifted student” who was unanimous with her classmates. “Brilliant”, “beautiful”, who “loved those who were rejected”, they said about her. But no one knows that the blonde-haired girl is the victim of an abusive father, named Warren Marshall, alias… Clarence Hughes. One fine day, when the student confides to her friend Jenny Fisher that she is pregnant with her boyfriend, she disappears with her father, without leaving a trace.
Franklin Delano Floyd, the repeat offender
In 1990, while the investigators are trying to piece together the puzzle and put together the different identities of Tonya-Hughes-Sharon-Marshall, they are also continuing their research on the husband – father? – with two faces. Wanted all over the country after the kidnapping of little Michael, the man is finally unmasked when he tries to withdraw the sum of his life insurance, itself linked to a social security number. Clarence-Hughes-Warren-Marshall, is actually named Franklin Delano Floyd. He is a repeat criminal, on the run since 1973, already convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault, and robbery. Barely in his sixties, he was arrested, alone, nearly two months after the child’s abduction, in Louisville, Kentucky.
In addition to the arrest of Franklin Delano Floyd, then sentenced to death for murder and kidnapping, the authorities are struggling to get their hands on little Michael, and to elucidate the mystery surrounding the true identity of his mother. It was not until 2015, during an FBI interrogation, facing agents Scott Lobb and Nate Furr, that Loyd revealed what was hiding under the young woman’s mask.
Suzanne Marie Sevakis
In 1970, twenty years before the murder, Franklin Delano Floyd, already wanted by the police, called himself Brandon Williams. That same year, he met a certain Sandi Chipman, a disillusioned single mother, who already had four children from a previous marriage. Among them, a young blonde girl, named Suzanne Marie Sevakis. Franklin Delano Floyd proposes to Sandi Chipman to marry him and help him with the custody of his children. But in 1975, when the latter was arrested by the police and sentenced to serve 30 days in prison for fraud, the criminal took the opportunity to kidnap his four children.
Back in 2015. Facing the FBI camera, Franklin Delano Floyd tells the whole truth. He would have dropped off three of Sandi Chipman’s children – Amy, Allison and Phillip – before kidnapping little Suzanne, first passing her off as his daughter, under the name of Sharon Marsall. Learning that she is pregnant with her boyfriend, Floyd decides to flee, pass her off as his wife, and raise the little one, becoming the Hughes family. For many years, the mother and wife, renamed Tonya Hughes, was raped, beaten, and prostituted.
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Franklin Delano Floyd will confess very quickly, during his arrest, to have killed little Michael, with two bullets in the head, on the first day of his abduction. To date, the body has still not been found by the police, and the search is still ongoing. Floyd, however, denies the murder of the young mother, Suzanne Marie Sevakis. Sentenced to the death penalty, he is still biding his time on death row at the Union Correctional Institution in Florida.