The Girl in the Picture: Is it a true story? Who is Sharon Marshall? All your questions answered

The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall
The Girl in the Picture tells the haunting story of Sharon Marshall. (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

The Girl in the Picture is a twisty-turny true crime documentary on Netflix about a woman who is found dying by the side of a road. But this is no clear-cut hit-and-run accident... soon the truth about the woman starts to unravel into a chilling mystery that no one could have ever predicted. 

After the police identify 20-year-old Tonya Hughes following her death it soon transpires this is a haunting story about false identities, abuse, kidnap and murder... and, quite frankly, nothing can quite prepare you for what unfolds. 

But what happened to Tonya Hughes? Who is Sharon Marshall? And how did she end up dying on the side of a road? Here are all your questions about The Girl in the Picture answered... 

*WARNING — this article contains references to sexual abuse that readers may find upsetting*

The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall as a child

Sharon Marshall as a child, or Suzanne Marie Sevakis as she was known then.  (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

What is the story of The Girl in the Picture?

The Girl in the Picture focuses on Tonya Hughes, a woman who left behind a son and a man claiming to be her husband after her body was discovered on the side of the road in Oklahoma in 1990. 

But when police started to unpick the mystery, it soon unfolded like a nightmare when they told Tonya's mother about her death and she revealed her daughter had died in childhood. 

The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall

Sharon Marshall lived under multiple identities in her life.  (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

With Tonya's identity thrown into doubt, the police then became 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.

Soon things quickly escalated from hauntingly chilling to completely bizarre when Michael's foster parents applied to adopt him, only for Clarence to fight them for custody until it turned out he wasn't actually the child's biological father. 

After losing custody, Clarence kidnapped Michael one day from school and the pair vanished... and for years no one knew what happened to Michael. However, this is only the beginning of the story. 

Michael from The Girl in the Picture

What really happened to Michael remains a mystery. (Image credit: Netflix)

Police soon worked out that Tonya was actually Sharon Marshall, a girl who in her school days was a popular and bright student who went on to earn a scholarship to study aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

However, Sharon was hiding a dark secret, because at home she was being abused by her stepfather, Franklin Floyd... who you've guessed it, is actually Clarence. Police eventually worked out that Franklin was a convicted felon and had been on the run since the 1970s for the kidnap and abuse of a young child — Suzanne Marie Sevakis, the birth name given to Sharon/Tonya.  

When Sharon fell pregnant with another man's baby, Franklin moved them to Florida, where they lived under the aliases, Tonya and Clarence. After giving birth to her son, Michael, Sharon was forced to work as an exotic dancer to provide for her and Franklin. 

In 1989, the pair were married during a trip to New Orleans and not long after Sharon (or Tonya as she was known as by then) gave birth to a daughter who she put up for adoption. But marrying his own stepdaughter wasn't the biggest of Franklin's wrongdoings, far from it. Just a year later, in 1990 Tonya was then found dying by the side of the road, suffering from head injuries that police decided were unlikely to come from a road traffic accident. 

Who was Michael's father Girl in the Picture?

The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall's son Michael

Franklin confessed to killing Sharon Marshall's son Michael.  (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

It has been reported that Sharon was dating a man called Gregory Higgs while living with Franklin Floyd in Phoenix, Arizona. She eventually got pregnant and gave birth to Michael in 1988. Higgs isn’t named in the documentary, but legal documents from the government’s case against Floyd suggest Higgs could be Michael's father.

It is also thought that Sharon tried to escape from Floyd and elope with Gregory, but Franklin hunted them down and brought her back, leading to his decision to leave their home, change their identies and eventually get married. 

Following Sharon's death, Floyd reportedly got in touch with Gregory to ask about raising his son but sadly never handed Michael over. 

Where is Michael from The Girl in the Picture?

The Girl in the Picture, Michael

Michael from The Girl in the Picture.  (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

Following Tonya's death, two-year-old Michael was placed into foster care with Earnest and Merle Bean in Choctaw, Oklahoma. He stayed with the couple for four years during which Franklin (or Clarence as he was calling himself then) tried to get him back on several occasions. Eventually Earnest and Merle decided to adopt Michael but, during the process, a DNA test soon revealed he wasn't Michael's biological father, leaving him with no legal rights. 

Michael's foster parents in The Girl in the Picture

Earnest and Merle Bean fostered Michael after his mother's death.  (Image credit: Netflix)

However, Franklin wasn't going to let the child go that easily, and on September 12, 1994 he stormed into Michael's school and kidnapped him after holding principal James Davis at gunpoint and fleeing with them both in the the principal's truck. The principal was later found handcuffed and duct-taped to a tree down a dirt road and was rescued by police.

Sadly, Michael hasn't been seen since.

While on death row for Cheryl Commesso's murder in 1989, Franklin confessed to shooting and killing Michael shortly after kidnapping him. He even gave the FBI the location of where he buried Michael's body, but after three days of searching, the police couldn't find any remains, meaning the case is still considered unsolved. 

But was Franklin telling the truth and did animals just get to Michael's body before the police? Or was he lying and by some miracle Michael is still alive somewhere? If he were alive today, he'd be about 34 years old.

Only Franklin knows the truth. 

Who is Megan in The Girl in the Picture?

Suzanne's daughter, Megan , from The Girl in the Picture

Suzanne's daughter, Megan, also appears in the documentary.  (Image credit: Netflix)

Megan Dufresne was Suzanne's youngest child, and it is thought her father was Franklin. Megan was born in New Orleans in 1989 and put up for adoption in the same year. She was adopted by Mary and Dean Dufresne — just one year before Sevakis' death.

Megan discovered the truth about her mother after a book was published about her life, and this led to Megan taking part in The Girl in the Picture documentary.

Today Megan lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and it is thought she works as a research coordinator at Covington Ortho and Sports Med Clinic. In the documentary Megan talks about what her mum went through in her life... “No girl should have to go through that. From a stranger, much less somebody’s that’s supposed to be her father, father figure, whatever the hell he was.”

Where is Franklin Floyd now?

The Girl in the Picture - Franklin Floyd

Franklin Floyd is currently on death row in Florida.  (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

While Franklin has never been convinced of any crimes surrounding Tonya's death, he is currently on death row after confessing to shooting and killing Michael after kidnapping him in an interview with the FBI in 2015. However, none of Michael's remains have ever been found. 

In 2002 Franklin was also found guilty of murdering Sharon's co-worker Cheryl Commesso, who went missing in 1989 and whose skeletal remains were also found on the side of a road in 1995. Currently, no execution date has been set for Franklin. 

Who is The Girl in the Picture? 

The Girl in the Picture - Sharon Marshall with stepfather Franklin Floyd

The chilling image of a young Sharon Marshall with her stepfather Franklin Floyd.  (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

The picture mentioned in the show's title is what at first look appears to be an everyday image of a father and his daughter. But when you look closer, you soon realize a picture can say a thousand words. On closer investigation, the look on Sharon Marshall's face is far from the happy-go-lucky child she should have been at that age, and instead hints at the chilling secrets that she was being forced to keep. 

Is The Girl in the Picture based on a true story?

Yes, as this is a true-crime documentary and not a TV drama adaptation, the whole story is shockingly true. 

Is The Girl in the Picture disturbing?

Yes, although there is nothing graphic shown in The Girl in the Picture, the show is based on a true story and talks about murder and sexual abuse which some viewers may find distressing. 

Is The Girl in the Picture a documentary? 

The Girl in the Picture is a one-off documentary that is about 1 hour 40 minutes long. The TV show explains the story of Sharon Marshall's life from the moment she was found dying at the side of the road and identified as Tonya Hughes. The documentary then works back to her childhood, unraveling the sickening story about how she went from being Franklin Floyd's step daughter to then become his wife, living a life of abuse and coercive control.    

Is there a trailer for The Girl in the Picture? 

Yes, the trailer gives a chilling insight into Sharon Marshall's story and how she lived a horrific and abusive childhood at the hands of her stepfather, Franklin Floyd. The clip, which is less than two minutes long, features interviews with people who know Sharon's story inside out, from her high school best friend to the investigative journalist who studied the case. 

But the question still remains, what really happened to Sharon Marshall?

Where can I watch The Girl in the Picture?

The Girl in the Picture is available to stream on Netflix worldwide now. Netflix also has another new crime documentary series out, D. B. Cooper: Where Are You?!, which you might want to check out. Also see our best Netflix series guide for more shows to watch.

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.