true crime

"He kept her for over 15 years." The horrific story behind Netflix's true-crime documentary Girl In The Picture.

This post deals with violence against women, sexual assault and child abuse and could be triggering for some readers.

In 1990, a pair of truckers in Oklahoma came across a 20-year-old woman on the side of the road.

She was in a critical condition, battered and bruised with both old and new injuries.

Her name was Suzanne Marie Sevakis. But to the few people in her life, she was known by two different aliases - Sharon Marshall, and Tonya Hughes. 

As Suzanne was rushed to hospital, her husband Clarence and their two-year-old son Michael came to see her. She died as a result of her extensive injuries. 

Clarence soon became shrouded in suspicion over his alleged involvement in his wife's death. But it would take years for investigators to discover that Clarence wasn't who he said he was. 

His name was Franklin Delano Floyd, a now-convicted murderer, rapist and death row inmate. 

A man guilty of unspeakable crimes, all of which are explored in the new Netflix documentary Girl In The Picture.

Watch the official trailer for Girl In The Picture. Post continues below.


Video via Netflix.

Floyd's crime rap sheet began in his teenage years. 

At age 18 in 1962, Floyd abducted a four-year-old girl from a local bowling alley in Atlanta and sexually assaulted her in the nearby woods. He was convicted of kidnapping and child molestation and was sentenced to serve 10 to 20 years, but he managed to escape and flee and rob a bank, before being caught and sent back to jail.

In 1972, Floyd was released from prison and sent to a halfway house. Months later, he attempted to sexually assault another woman, who managed to escape. By 1974, Floyd had met and started a relationship with Sandra Francis Brandenburg, who was recently divorced from her ex-husband Cliff Sevakis with whom she had four children, Suzanne Marie Sevakis, Allison, Amy and Philip. 

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When Brandenburg was sentenced to 30 days in jail for passing bad cheques in 1975, she left her children in the custody of Floyd, who she had since married. But when she returned, her children were gone. She managed to find her daughters Allison and Amy, but never found Suzanne or Philip. 

Philip had been dropped off at an orphanage where he was privately adopted out to a loving family in North Carolina. But four-year-old Suzanne was kidnapped by Floyd, who ran away with her to another state.

For the rest of her life, Suzanne was raised as Floyd's daughter. 

Suzanne as a young girl. Image: Netflix. In 1984 in her early teens, Suzanne started high school and began making friends. She was part of the student council and science club, was in the gifted program, and had dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer.

Jenny Fisher was one of Suzanne's closest friends. But Floyd had forced Suzanne to change her name, so to those around them, Suzanne was known as Sharon Marshall.

When Suzanne won a scholarship to Georgia Institute of Technology for aerospace engineering, she was elated. It was all she talked about. Her now-father, Floyd, bought a full-page ad in the school's yearbook to congratulate his daughter for her scholarship. But it was the picture he chose that made Suzanne's friends start to fear something wasn't right in their relationship - it was an incredibly sexy photo of the teenager. 

One night, Suzanne's school friend Jenny decided to have a sleepover at Suzanne's trailer park. It was something Jenny's parents weren't very comfortable with, but her mum decided to let her go in the end. 

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As Jenny and Suzanne began getting ready for bed, Suzanne showed Jenny all of her very adult lingerie. She was 15.

"She said to me 'Oh daddy buys all this lingerie for me and lets me wear it'," Jenny reflected in Netflix's Girl In The Picture. "Then he came into the room with a gun. We were both naked still getting dressed in our pyjamas for bed. He pointed it at us and started screaming. Then he started laughing - maniacal, evil laughs. Sharon [Suzanne] says to me 'don't worry, daddy's just being silly'," Jenny said through tears.

"He ordered me to lay down on the floor, put a pillow on my face and he began to rape Sharon while I was in the room. The next morning, she came over, gave me a big hug and said 'daddy's just like that. You're okay, I'm okay. Just let it go'."

Suzanne never made it to university to study aerospace engineering. She fell pregnant, was forced to give her child up for adoption, and Floyd made her leave town with him. 

Suzanne's picture in the yearbook. Image: Netflix. "I don't know anybody who had as miserable of a life as she had, for as long as she did," Joe Fitzpatrick a special agent from the FBI told Girl In The Picture.

"I hated the fact that as a child she was sexually abused and then he took her around to strip clubs to perform and make a living for him. That made me hurt. He kept her for over 15 years."

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For the last few years of her short life, Suzanne was forced by Floyd to perform at strip clubs in Tampa, Florida. She started to form close bonds with some of the women she worked with, and they felt incredibly concerned about the relationship Suzanne had with her father.

At this point in her life in 1988, she had fallen pregnant again, this time a baby boy called Michael who she kept. The father of the child was not Floyd, but another man. 

One of the girls at the strip club that Suzanne became close with was Cheryl Ann Commesso, a fellow teen dancer. But Floyd became obsessed with Cheryl and took advantage of her. In 1989, she disappeared. 

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That year, Suzanne and Floyd were on the move again, this time moving to Oklahoma. But before setting up a new life, Floyd decided it was time he force Suzanne to marry him. So in 1989, they married and changed their names once again, with people in Oklahoma knowing Suzanne as 'Tonya Hughes'.

In Oklahoma, those around them only knew Suzanne and Floyd as a married couple with a son Michael. That same year, Suzanne had a daughter, but had to give her up for adoption.

"Her son Michael meant everything to her. He was her world," one co-worker said. "Every time I saw them together, Michael would be right next to his mother. He wouldn't be next to Clarence [Floyd] at all."

A fellow dancer, encouraged Suzanne to leave the domineering Floyd, only for Suzanne to say he would kill her and her child if she tried.

By 1990, 20-year-old Suzanne was found dying on the side of a road in Oklahoma. 

Her son Michael was put in a foster home, and for the next four years, he was with a loving foster family who had plans of adopting him. Floyd was given visitation rights to see Michael, but when it was discovered that Michael was not biologically his, those rights were forfeited. He was furious. 

Michael's foster family could see during those visitation periods that Michael was fearful and uncomfortable whenever he was in the presence of Floyd. 

In September 1994, Floyd went to Michael's elementary school and kidnapped him and the school principal, who was later found alive, duct-taped to a tree in nearby woodlands. But Michael was nowhere to be found.

Two months later, Floyd was arrested in Kentucky. Michael was not with him and has not been seen since.

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Michael was six years old. Image: Netflix. The evidence against Floyd was growing.

But landing a conviction against Floyd for the presumed murder of Michael was difficult without a body. So initially, he was charged with kidnapping and using a weapon against the elementary school principal. He was sentenced to 52 years in prison, with no parole, in 1995. 

Soon after, detectives managed to find one of Floyd's getaway vehicles. Strapped to the bottom of the truck was a ziplock bag containing "obscene" images. Some were of Suzanne, others were of Cheryl Ann Commesso - the young dancer Floyd had been obsessed with back in Tampa, 1989. The photos of Cheryl showed her badly beaten, to the point where it was unlikely she survived.

Around the time of those photographs being discovered, Cheryl's decomposed body was also found, showing evidence of a beating and two gunshot wounds to the back of the head. 

The shirt Cheryl was wearing in Floyd's photograph matched the shirt fragments Cheryl was buried with. She had been identified, and Floyd was convicted for the murder. He was given a death sentence, and remains on death row at age 79.

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It wasn't until 2015 that Floyd admitted to killing Michael the same day he kidnapped him, by shooting him twice in the back of the head.

But Suzanne's real identity still remained a mystery to so many. Her biological family had no idea what had happened to their four-year-old child who had been kidnapped by Floyd. Her friends from high school who knew her as Sharon didn't know her backstory, neither did her fellow dancers. No one knew. 

Then in 2014, Suzanne's story was uncovered. A layered and tragic account of a child abducted, raised by her kidnapper, sexually abused and forced to marry, only to be killed in a suspicious hit-and-run at 20 years old.

She is survived by her daughter, who was discovered through a DNA match - her name is Megan Dufresne. Suzanne gave birth to Megan in 1989, the year before she was killed. Megan was then put up for adoption and had a happy life with her adopted family. 

It was through DNA evidence and an investigation from the National Centre of Missing Exploited Children that Suzanne's real identity was confirmed. She is no longer known under the alias of Sharon Marshall or Tonya Hughes. She is Suzanne Sevakis.

"The more I learned the angrier and sadder I got about everything," daughter Megan said.

Now Megan is a parent herself, she says she has even more love and respect for her birth mother Suzanne, and in her honour, Meghan decided to name one of her children Michael after her brother.

"Michael didn't get to live out his name, and I wanted that name to keep going."

In 2017, Suzanne was laid to rest and given an accurate tombstone. Investigators, her friends from work and high school, and all of her living family held a proper memorial service. A plaque next to her grave reads: "A devoted mother and friend."

In attendance was her biological father, Cliff. 

Reflecting on the loss of his daughter he said, "one of the things that got me most was that she never knew who she was. I can't talk to Suzanne. But I can talk to Meghan. Knowing the people that were part of her life - her school friends and her colleagues - that helped me.

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"Cause they all had such positive memories of her. You get the feeling that at times she was making the most of the life she had."

Megan today, and Megan with Suzanne's father Cliff. Image: Netflix. If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact Bravehearts (an organisation providing support to victims of child abuse) here.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from the Child Abuse Protection Hotline by calling 1800 688 009, or visiting this website. You can also call the 24-hour Child Abuse Report Line (131 478).

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men's Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.

Feature Image: Netflix.