Netflix's The Girl in the Picture: the true story behind the shocking documentary is utterly disturbing

Viewers might well have been shocked by Netflix's The Girl in the Picture and the true story that it explores is every bit as chilling...

Netflix's The Girl in the Picture documentary, photograph of Suzanne Sevakis
(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

Netflix’s The Girl in the Picture documentary explores the terrifying true story of Suzanne Sevakis and the investigation that led to her real identity finally being confirmed.  

There are plenty of true crime shows that have had viewers gripped over the years and the true story of Netflix’s The Girl in the Picture is every bit as sensitive as you might expect. Unlike many recent hits like The Staircase and The Thing About Pam, The Girl in the Picture is a documentary and not a dramatization. It was directed by Skye Borgman and was reportedly inspired by the account of Suzanne Sevakis’ case, “A Beautiful Child”, written by journalist Matt Birkbeck. 

Also known throughout her life by the names Tonya Hughes, Tonya Tadlock, and Sharon Marshall, The Girl in the Picture depicts the investigation that saw the appalling crimes of Franklin Delano Floyd exposed and her true identity confirmed. Featuring interviews, as well as videos and photos from the time, this is a hard-hitting documentary. 

Here we reveal the harrowing true story behind Netflix’s The Girl in the Picture and where Franklin Delano Floyd is now.

*Warning: potentially upsetting details and spoilers ahead*

Suzanne Sevakis in Girl in the Picture

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

The true story behind Netflix's The Girl in the Picture

Netflix’s The Girl in The Picture is a somber exploration of the shocking events of a woman’s life and death. Suzanne Sevakis, also known by the names Sharon Marshall and Tonya Hughes, and the investigation into her death that brought multiple crimes committed by her kidnapper Franklin Delano Floyd to the light. 

As reported by The Guardian (opens in new tab), the investigation began after Suzanne’s body was discovered on the side of the road in Oklahoma in 1990, having seemingly become the victim of a brutal hit-and-run. Suzanne later died from her injuries and the truth behind her passing turned out to be far darker than anyone could’ve imagined. 

She was initially identified as Tonya Hughes though when police attempted to speak with Tonya Hughes' mother, she claimed her daughter had died in childhood, putting this identity in doubt. Police were also suspicious about Tonya’s older husband, Clarence, and as a result, her son Michael was reportedly placed in foster care after his mother’s death.

Clarence fought Michael’s foster parents for custody until the case was settled when paternity test results proved he was not the young boy’s father. Refusing to accept he had no parental rights over Michael, Clarence went on to kidnap him from school. FBI Agent Joe Fitzpatrick is said to have been brought in to find Michael and apprehend Clarence, only to be drawn into a far deadlier and utterly disturbing investigation when he learned that someone called Franklin Delano Floyd had attempted to claim Tonya’s life insurance. 

Authorities later discovered that Clarence was none other than Franklin Floyd, who was a convicted felon and had been on the run since the 1970s for the kidnap and abuse of a young child. Following an extensive manhunt, Floyd was found and arrested and though he claimed Michael was unharmed, police were unable to find him.

The Girl in the Picture Suzanne Sevakis picture

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

During the investigation into Floyd, however, they had discovered devastating information about Michael’s mother. Tonya was firstly determined to be Sharon Marshall, before being finally identified by her real name of Suzanne Sevakis many years later. Suzanne was also kidnapped by Floyd as a child after he was reportedly briefly married to her mother under an alias. 

Renaming her Sharon Marshall, Floyd lived with her as his “daughter” after taking her away from her mother. At school she reportedly earned a full scholarship to Georgia Tech and was a popular student. During this time she’s understood to have been horrifically abused by Floyd. Floyd later married Suzanne/Sharon, who is said to have given birth to Michael sometime before the wedding, and at some point the pair became known as Clarence and Tonya Hughes (née Tadlock). 

Girl in the Picture photo of Suzanne Sevakis

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

As the search for Michael and police’s quest for answers continued, evidence was uncovered that implicated Floyd in another death. Photos of a young woman were said to have been found in a truck that was eventually traced back to Floyd and according to the Radio Times (opens in new tab), these were later discovered to be of Suzanne/Sharon’s former colleague Cheryl Commesso.

She had reportedly worked as a dancer in the same club where Suzanne/Sharon had worked prior to her death and Cheryl had also been found at the side of a freeway. The news of Sharon’s true identity as Suzanne is said to have only become known when Floyd himself admitted to her kidnapping whilst in prison after being arrested and convicted for Cheryl’s murder.

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As reported by Decider (opens in new tab), Floyd’s admission regarding his taking of Suzanne and the creation of her subsequent identities as Sharon and Tonya was supposedly later confirmed by DNA samples. In yet another dark and disturbing moment in this tragic tale, the murderer and kidnapper also apparently confessed that he had killed Michael as the authorities had feared and suspected all along. 

Whilst Netflix’s The Girl In The Picture documentary focuses on this disturbing true story, Suzanne Sekadis is kept front and center throughout. The quest to get justice for her, restore her identity and give answers and some form of closure to her family members is hugely important and moving. 

What happened to Franklin Delano Floyd and where is he now?

Anyone who was concerned by how John Darwin got caught in real-life after watching The Man, His Wife and The Canoe or discovering where Colin Howell is now after seeing The Secret, will no doubt be wondering what happened to Franklin Floyd. Unlike those TV dramatizations, Netflix’s The Girl In The Picture is a documentary and reveals that Floyd was initially found and arrested for Michael’s abduction. 

After more evidence came to light and he was suspected to have been involved in the death of Cheryl Commesso, the authorities’ quest for justice took another turn. Floyd was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death in Florida for Cheryl Commesso’s murder in 2002. According to the Radio Times, now 20 years later the 79-year-old convicted murderer remains in prison on death row and no execution date has apparently been set for him. 

Netflix's The Girl in the Picture documentary is available to watch on the streaming service now. 

Emma Shacklock
Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.