By Bethonie Butler
"Driver Sought In Hit-and-Run; Victim Critical," read the headline in the Daily Oklahoman on May 2, 1990. The newspaper reported that police were searching for the driver of a car that had struck 22-year-old Tonya Dawn Hughes a week earlier on a service road near a major highway in Oklahoma City.
That isn't the type of incident usually explored in a true-crime film, but the story went far deeper, as chronicled in the chilling Netflix documentary "The Girl in the Picture", which has been atop the most-watched movies on the streaming platform since it premiered last week.
Even the original 12-paragraph Oklahoman article made the story seem simple, if sad, noting that Hughes had been staying at a nearby motel with her husband, Clarence Hughes, and their son, Michael, while in town for a doctor's appointment.
But as the police would later discover with help from the FBI, Tonya Dawn Hughes was not the real name of the woman who later died from her injuries and was buried by friends who simply put "Tonya" on her headstone.
And her husband was not Clarence Hughes nor the biological father of Michael, but rather a felon named Franklin Delano Floyd.
The Hughes aliases resurfaced in 1994 when the Oklahoman reported on the abduction of a six-year-old boy from an elementary school in Choctaw, Oklahoma.
Police believed Floyd to be the perpetrator of the kidnapping, during which he brandished a handgun and ordered the school principal – later found tied to a tree, according to the paper – to let him take Michael from the school.
By that time, Michael had been living with foster parents for three years and the paper reported that, according to Floyd's lawyer, he had been working to obtain custody of the boy.
The article also detailed Floyd's extensive criminal background, including a 1962 conviction for child molestation in Fulton County, Georgia, his subsequent escape from prison and a bank robbery he committed in 1963 before being sent back to prison.
By the time Floyd was charged with the kidnapping of Michael, who remained missing, in November 1994, investigators had discovered the most unsettling detail: While Floyd had been married to Michael's mother when she was killed, he had initially represented himself as her father.
The title of Skye Borgman's "The Girl in the Picture" refers to a childhood photo of "Tonya" – the image that ultimately pointed investigators to other atrocities Floyd carried out across various state lines.
They previously lived in Georgia, where "Tonya" attended high school and was known as Sharon Marshall. Floyd went by the alias Warren Marshall. Sharon was friendly and intelligent, and in one of the documentary's most heartbreaking moments, her friend Jenny Fisher recalls Sharon dreamt of going to Georgia Tech.
She and her friends were ecstatic when Sharon received a full scholarship, but she would never enrol at the respected public university. Sharon had discovered she was pregnant and, she told Fisher, "Daddy" wouldn't let her have the baby.
Sharon told Fisher that she and her father were headed to Arizona to put her baby up for adoption and they lost touch. The film features interviews with other members of their close-knit friend group, who remember Sharon as kind and accepting of everyone.
Fisher tearfully recalls knowing something was terribly wrong in her friend's household because she had slept over one time and witnessed Warren rape Sharon at gunpoint. "I never said a word to anybody because I was scared," Fisher says.
Floyd and Sharon left Georgia for Florida, where a similar pattern unfolded as Sharon, who found work in a strip club. shared very little details about her life.
But friends at the club and the small mobile home community where they lived picked up on the same disquieting details: an overprotective father who encouraged Sharon to sleep with men and took inappropriate photos of his purported daughter.
It was in Florida that Sharon became pregnant with Michael, who friends say was the only reason Sharon stayed with Floyd; he wouldn't let the boy out of his sight.
Toward the end of the documentary, the full horrific picture comes into view: Floyd kidnapped "Sharon" as a girl, having met her mother, Sandra Willet, who was struggling with her mental health, at a vulnerable moment.
He promised to take care of the woman and her three daughters, but after they married, it became clear he was abusive and controlling. When Sandra was jailed for a month after writing a bad cheque, Floyd abducted the children, though he later put two of his stepdaughters into foster care. The other daughter became Sharon Marshall, the girl in the photo.
In January 1995, the Oklahoman featured an interview with Floyd, who claimed that Sharon had given birth to a boy and a girl before having Michael; in fact, Michael was her second child.
In the documentary, this detail isn't revealed until nearly the end. Ultimately, Floyd was found guilty of felony kidnapping and murder – for killing a friend of Sharon's in Florida – and was sentenced to death.
In 2016, after years of lying to the press and authorities about Michael's whereabouts, he finally confessed in an interview with two FBI agents that he fatally shot the boy the same day of the abduction.
In the same interview, he revealed the real identity of "Sharon": Suzanne Sevakis. According to the Oklahoman, Floyd, who was suspected in the hit-and-run that killed her but never charged, has never talked about her death.
Despite the horrific acts it explores, "The Girl in the Picture" ends on a hopeful note as it reveals that Suzanne's biological daughter, Megan Dufresne, read journalist Michael Birkbeck's 2004 book chronicling the case. (Megan became aware of the book because her aunt showed it to Megan's mother, who had met Floyd and "Tonya" before adopting Megan.) Birkbeck then got an anonymous email asking if DNA could help identify the girl in the picture.
"I always knew I was adopted, but it never felt weird until I discovered Matt's book," Megan says in the film. "Then it was a lot more than being adopted."
The film's final scene shows Megan, pregnant with her own child, at a graveside memorial service for her mother, surrounded by people who loved her when she was known as Sharon and Tonya. The tombstone bearing the name "Tonya" has been replaced. It now reads: Suzanne Marie Sevakis.