‘Girl in the Picture’ review: Netflix doc makes sense of a senseless, complex crime

Robert Hundley

It was just a pair of months ago that HBO produced the documentary “Mind More than Murder,” which explained to the tale of six people today who confessed to a killing they didn’t dedicate, and I explained to you it was it’s possible the most mind-blowing of all the correct-crime collection and movies we’ve noticed in the very last number of yrs.

Now arrives an additional contender for that difference. The Netflix documentary “Girl in the Picture” is an astonishing, horrific, intriguing and intricate true-crime story that commences with a brutal act of murder in the late 20th century and winds its way effectively into the 2000s and 2010s. It’s arguably the most labyrinthian actual-lifetime criminal offense story you are going to ever listen to, and at moments I felt a feeling of notion whiplash just attempting to retain up with all the gorgeous twists and turns, but thanks to the proficient get the job done by acclaimed director Skye Borgman (“Abducted in Plain Sight”), the specific modifying that shifts from time time period to time period not as a gimmick but with purpose, and new interviews shedding light on numerous aspects of the circumstance, we retain up with the story. Just be ready to listen to about an absolute monster of a human staying who ruined lives — as well as a amount of brave and committed people who finally introduced him to justice.

Relying on archival footage, the considered use of re-creations and the typical documentary arsenal of interviews with investigators, relatives, good friends and journalists, “Girl in the Picture” commences in Oklahoma City in 1990, when some guys in a truck see something on the side of the road and contact an ambulance. It’s at some point figured out this is a 20-year-outdated female named Tonya Hughes, who was performing as a stripper in Tulsa, and although she’s nonetheless alive when transported to the hospital, she quickly passes away, apparently the target of a hit and run.

‘Girl in the Picture’

Tonya’s good friends obtain a identify and phone a girl they consider to be Tonya’s mother to convey to her what occurred. The woman says this can’t be correct, as her daughter died some 20 many years in the past, when she was only 18 months previous.

This youthful female was utilizing the name Tonya Hughes, but she was not Tonya Hughes. So, who was she? Who is the woman in this photograph?

Flashback to Forest Park, Georgia, in the mid-1980s, when the female who finally termed herself Tonya Hughes was a teenager regarded as Sharon Marshall— an upbeat, friendly, excellent, stunning girl who experienced obtained a entire scholarship to Ga Tech to study to develop into an aerospace engineer. Former classmates discuss about how Sharon was a shining gentle but lived underneath the strict rule of her solitary father, one Warren Marshall. Ahead of Sharon could go to faculty, she obtained expecting — and then she and her father disappeared. By the time they arrived in Oklahoma a few many years later on, Sharon was now Tonya and had a youthful son named Michael, and Warren Marshall had improved his title to Clarence Hughes and was lawfully married to Tonya.

Franklin Floyd had elevated Sevakis as his daughter, abused her and later on married her.

The story will get even much more bizarre. Immediately after Tonya’s dying, Clarence storms into Michael’s college, kidnaps the principal and Michael, duct tapes the principal to a tree and goes on the operate with the younger boy. The story is highlighted on numerous episodes of “America’s Most Wanted” and the FBI gets concerned in the investigation, but it’s yrs before different parts of the puzzle are place together and it’s uncovered that Clarence Hughes’ real identify is Franklin Floyd, that he had a prolonged heritage of violent sexual crimes, and that Tonya/Sharon is in fact an individual else altogether and had been raised by Floyd as his daughter, only for him to abuse her, pressure her to do the job in strip golf equipment and even marry him. Her real identify was Suzanne Marie Sevakis.

“I really do not know any individual who had as depressing a lifetime as she had, for as extensive as she had it,” claims retired FBI Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick, who invested a long time seeking to get to the bottom of the case. “I hated the point that as a child, she was sexually abused, and then he took her around to strip golf equipment to accomplish and make a living for him. … I damage a ton for her.”

Legitimate-crime documentaries these types of as this normally aspect interviews with former investigators such as Joe Fitzpatrick, the genuine heroes of these stories. Adult men and gals who are retired, who sit down in a diner or in a stark studio, possibly a cup of espresso in their fingers, as they discuss about the situation. We see pictures of them when they have been younger, framed badges, mementos of their careers. They constantly nonetheless seem like regulation enforcement or military services, even in their 70s or their 80s. We hear them discuss with passion and intelligence and broad practical experience about a distinct circumstance, and we drastically admire them for their devotion and their concern for their victims. They are the heroes of these stories.

In this case, kudos also go to the investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck, who wrote two books about this circumstance and serves as govt producer on the film. Birkbeck was decided to uncover the identification of that youthful woman who was observed on the aspect of the highway in Oklahoma City in 1990, established to see that surviving customers of Suzanne’s family were there when the accurate title was etched on a new tombstone.

As for Franklin Floyd: He’s been sentenced to demise and rots in the Union Correctional Establishment in Florida. He’ll never choose a breath of free air again.

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