Inside the Endlessly Twisted Story of Netflix's Girl in the Picture

When the young woman was found sprawled on the side of a service road off of Oklahoma City's I-35 in April 1990, the groceries she'd been carrying scattered around her, police figured they were looking at a hit-and-run.

She wasn't carrying any ID and, as she was wheeled into Presbyterian Hospital, she was crying out, "Daddy! Daddy!"

Examining her cuts and bruises, some fresh and others clearly inflicted at another time, doctors concluded she'd been hit from behind and the impact lifted her up and over the roof of the car. Headphones also found at the scene suggested she wouldn't have heard the vehicle approaching. She had no broken bones, but she slipped into a coma with bruising on her brain.

Later that morning, Clarence Marcus Hughes, 41, arrived at the hospital. The injured woman was his wife, 23-year-old Tonya Hughes, he said. They were staying at the nearby Motel 6 with their 2-year-old son, Michael, having made the trip from their home in Tulsa.

Tonya was a stripper, he explained, so he was used to her being out at odd hours and hadn't been worried. After looking in on his wife in her hospital bed, Clarence taped up a sign outside her room reading, "No visitors."

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Tonya, who was actually only 20, died a few days later. Soon enough, investigators learned they had way more than a hit-and-run on their hands—and that the man who called himself Clarence Hughes was a monster.

"The FBI has been chipping away at this one," Special Agent Scott Lobb told The FBI Story in 2015, two years after he joined what was by then a confounding, decades-old investigation. "There were a lot of peculiar twists to this case."

Netflix's new documentary Girl in the Picture delves into the more-haunting-than-fiction chain of events, which started long before—but sadly did not stop with—Tonya's death. (Director Skye Borgman was also behind the memorably bonkers Netflix doc Abducted in Plain Sight and Hulu's controversial Dead Asleep.)

Girl in the Picture

Who Was Tonya Hughes?

As the film relays, after Tonya died, some of her work friends took it upon themselves to look up her family to pay their respects. A woman who answered the phone said that she was Tonya Hughes' mother—but her Tonya had died 20 years ago, when she was 18 months old.

Karen Parsley, a fellow dancer at a Tulsa strip club called Passions, recalled her pal's "weird," domineering husband. She said in the doc that she suspected Clarence caused the bruises on Tonya's body.

Little did she know in 1990 that Clarence and Tonya Hughes had previously lived in Georgia as house painter Warren Marshall and his teenage daughter Sharon—an honors student who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in ROTC and wanted to work for NASA. She even earned a scholarship to Georgia Tech.

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According to journalist Matt Birkbeck's 2004 book about the case A Beautiful Child (which served as the basis for Girl in the Picture), teachers noticed that, while excelling at her school activities, Sharon always made sure to be home by 4:30 p.m. so that she could cook and clean for her father.

Sharon had told people at school that her mother died in a hit-and-run accident when she was 7, but faculty members remembered Warren—who attended his daughter's ROTC ceremonies and seemed nice enough—saying his wife had died of cancer. No one pressed either of the Marshalls for details, figuring it was the family's own business.

Girl in the Picture

But Sharon never made it to higher education. Instead, a high school friend remembered in Girl in the Picture how Sharon called her up and told her she was pregnant, saying, "'Daddy won't let me go to college now.'"

Her son, Michael, was born March 21, 1988, when Sharon was 18.

Sharon and Warren lived for awhile in Tampa, where he put her to work at the Mons Venus strip club, before they arrived in Tulsa in 1989 as married couple Tonya and Clarence Hughes.

Girl in the Picture

Who Is Franklin Delano Floyd?

Tonya's friends told police that Clarence was abusive and she'd been planning to leave him. After she died in April 1990, Clarence left Michael in foster care in Oklahoma and hit the road. "He knew the truth would come out," Special Agent Lobb said, "and so he fled."

But soon enough, the self-proclaimed widower tried to collect Tonya's life insurance policy, and the Social Security number he used belonged to wanted fugitive and ex-convict Franklin Delano Floyd—Clarence's actual identity. He was arrested in June 1990 and locked up for violating his parole.

Back in 1963, Franklin had been convicted of kidnapping of kidnapping and molesting a 4-year-old girl (which he denied) and sentenced to at least 10 years in Georgia State Prison. Toward the end of the year he was sent to what was then known as Milledgeville State Hospital for psychiatric testing. While being transported to another location for medical purposes, he escaped—then managed to rob $6,000 from a bank in Macon, Ga., before he was captured.

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Though he was also convicted of robbery and tried to escape once again, Franklin was released to a halfway house in November 1972.

A week after his release from the halfway house in January 1973, he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman at a gas station. Per Birkbeck's A Beautiful Child, he got a friend he'd met in prison to post his bond and he fled before his court appearance that June.

He testified decades later in a Florida court that he was routinely abused as a child from the age of 5, when he went to live in an orphanage, and was sexually assaulted while incarcerated in federal and state prisons. Asked on the stand how many felony convictions he had, he answered 19, but he couldn't remember all of them.

Girl in the Picture

Introducing himself as Brandon Williams, Franklin met Sandi Chipman at a North Carolina truck stop in 1974. He married the twice-divorced single mother of four a month later and they moved to Dallas.

In 1975, after spending 30 days in jail for passing bad checks, Sandi returned home to find the husband she knew as Brandon and her kids gone. Per Birkbeck's book, she found two of her daughters, Allison and Amy Brandenburg, in the care of social services. Her eldest daughter, 7-year-old Suzanne Sevakis, remained missing. (The fate of her infant son Philip was unknown for a long time, but it turned out he was quickly adopted.)

Eight years later, Warren Marshall enrolled his 15-year-old daughter, Sharon, at Forest Park High School in Georgia. She had all A's and B's on her transcripts from her three previous high schools.

Girl in the Picture

What Happened to Michael Hughes?

While Franklin was in prison, a 1992 blood test confirmed that Tonya's son, Michael, was not Franklin's (aka Clarence Hughes') biological child.

But when he was released from prison in 1993, as Birkbeck detailed in his book, Franklin appealed a lower court's custody ruling and won visitation, the Oklahoma Supreme Court judging that Franklin's rights had been violated when he'd been prevented from contesting the paternity test results. He had also $80,000 from Tonya's life insurance policies.

The legal wrangling prevented Michael's foster parents, Merle and Ernest Bean—who fought Franklin's efforts to win back custody every step of the way—from finalizing his adoption. But by the time Michael was 6, the once palpably traumatized child was said to be an increasingly well-adjusted first-grader.

In July 1994, according to court documents, Franklin was arrested for attacking a woman whose apartment he'd broken into, and he was sent back to the halfway house to await his court date, his efforts to regain custody seriously jeopardized. (He was later convicted of burglary with intent to commit assault and assault with a dangerous weapon.)

Then on Sept. 12, 1994, he kidnapped Michael from his elementary school at gunpoint, leaving the scene in a truck that belong to school principal James Davis, who was found handcuffed to a tree in some nearby woods.

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FBI Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick—who along with the Beans recounted the experience in Girl in the Picture—was called in to lead the kidnapping investigation. He scoured all the records on Franklin he could get his hands on, learning that the fugitive was a suspect in the 1990 death of Tonya Hughes.

And once pictures of Tonya and Franklin started showing up on TV newscasts, people who'd gone to high school with her recognized the pretty blonde as Sharon Marshall. Stranger yet, the man in the photo was the guy they'd known as Sharon's father, Warren.

Authorities realized that Michael's mother was also likely a kidnapping victim herself.

Girl in the Picture

In November 1994, authorities arrested Franklin in Kentucky (he was again going by Warren Marshall) and he was ultimately sentenced to 52 years in prison on federal kidnapping charges. Michael, however, was nowhere to be found.

"You're acting like I walked up to a McDonald's and took a strange boy and walked off with him," Floyd said on a 1996 episode of Unsolved Mysteries about the twisted case. "And that's where you're wrong." He claimed Michael was alive and safe, but refused to divulge the child's whereabouts.

Where Is Franklin Delano Floyd Now?

During their stay in Tampa, Sharon Marshall had worked with another girl named Cheryl Ann Commesso, who was 18 when she disappeared in April 1989. Her car was found abandoned in a parking lot at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport.

Cheryl's skeletal remains were found in March 1995 near Interstate 275 in Florida's Pinellas County. She had been shot twice in the head.

Two days after the bones were discovered, according to Florida court documents, a mechanic working on a 1994 Ford-150 pickup truck in Kansas found a packet of photographs that had been taped to the top of the gas tank underneath the vehicle. The images included sexually explicit shots of a young girl, which turned out to be Tonya as a kid, and others showing a woman who was tied up and appeared to have been beaten.

Franklin Delano Floyd

Kansas police sent copies of the 97 images to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation and that July they were shared with the FBI. During the course of the Michael Hughes kidnapping investigation in OKC, according to court documents, Fitzpatrick sent copies to the Bureau office in Tampa after noticing the woman had tan lines, indicating she lived somewhere warm.

St. Petersburg Police eventually received the images in early 1998 and identified Cheryl.

The pickup truck where the photos were found turned out to be by-then retired principal Davis' stolen vehicle, which had been found in October 1994 abandoned in the parking lot of the Wonder Bread Co. in Dallas.

Franklin was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2002. The 79-year-old is currently awaiting execution at Florida's Union Correctional Institution.

Girl in the Picture

The Truth About Tonya and Michael Hughes

Tonya's real identity wasn't known for sure until decades after her death. In 2013, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in collaboration with the FBI began a cold case review of the Michael Hughes kidnapping. Special Agents Scott Lobb and Nate Furr interviewed Franklin over the course of many hours in prison in 2014.

During these conversations, according to Lobb, Floyd admitted to taking off with Suzanne Sevakis, his wife Sandi's eldest daughter, in 1974. They moved around frequently, living outwardly as father and child for years before she had Michael. They got married around that time and he put her to work stripping.

Court records and DNA testing confirmed his story.

"We were able to find her birth parents and give them some closure about their daughter," Lobb said in 2015.

Franklin also told the agents he fatally shot Michael on the same day he kidnapped him and buried him near the last Interstate exit on his way out of Oklahoma. The child's remains have never been found.

"Floyd felt the pressure and he just ran out of patience," Lobb told The FBI Story. "He turned and looked at me and said, 'I shot him twice in the back of the head to make it real quick.'"

The prisoner did not, however, shed any light on the circumstances of the 1990 hit-and-run death of the young woman who was actually kidnapping victim Suzanne Sevakis, Lobb said, noting, "That's the one thing he won't talk about."

Girl in the Picture is streaming on Netflix.

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