The "Hughes" Family
In April of 1990, a woman that went by the name of Tonya Hughes was found on the side of an Oklahoma City highway; the victim of a hit-and-run. However, her unsolved murder would be just the beginning of a decades-long mystery that spanned across the continental United States, and included many more victims - including her son, Michael.
Part One: Suzanne Sevakis
Sandra Chapman and Cliff Sevakis were both school-mates at Southfield High School in the late 1960s. Southfield High School was named after the small town itself, a town of roughly 30,000 in Michigan, and located just fifteen or so miles away from Detroit.
Sandra - known as Sandi - would become high school sweethearts with Cliff. The two would remain an item, even though Cliff graduated in 1967 - a year before Sandi. The two would marry, even though their marriage wasn't long for this world.
In 1969, the two would welcome a baby girl into the world. Her name was Suzanne Marie Sevakis, and she was born on September 9th. She was a little blonde-haired girl, who shared her mother's cowlick.
Sandi and Cliff would split up a short time after Suzanne's birth, and from what little records we have, it doesn't look like her father remained a prominent figure in her life from that point on.
However, Sandi would find a new beau in the coming years. His name was Dennis Brandenburg, and both he and Sandi would get busy over the next few years.
Between 1971 and 1974, Sandi and Dennis would welcome three kids into the world. Suzanne was given two sisters: Allison, born in 1971; and Amy, born in 1972. As conflict began to stir between Sandi and Dennis, she would get pregnant once again, this time with a baby boy.
From what records I can find, Sandra Chapman gave birth to her son, Phillip Steven Brandenburg, a short while after this separation. The family was now living in North Carolina; or, at least, Sandra and her four children were.
It was about a month after the birth of baby Phillip that Sandi would meet the next chapter of her life: a man who went by the name of Brandon Cleo Williams. The two met at a truck stop, under circumstances that I couldn't tell you, but Sandra was apparently smitten with the man.
This man, who called himself Brandon Williams, looked to be just a few years older than Sandra herself. He was closer to thirty, and wasn't terrible-looking, with good social skills and a decent sense of humor. Perhaps, during that turbulent time in Sandra's life, he was just what she needed. Or, rather, what she thought she needed. Because, you see, the unfortunate truth is that this man's name was NOT Brandon Williams, and he was harboring some secrets that would have shaken Sandra to the core.
Over the next year, Sandra and the man claiming to be Brandon Williams would date and become close. Eventually, they married, making this man the stepfather of Sandi's four kids, the oldest of which was Suzanne. Brandon convinced the mother to move her small family to a new region, presumably for a fresh start. This area was thousands of miles away from where they had met, just outside of Dallas, Texas.
In 1975, Sandra would find herself in a rough patch. She attempted to buy diapers from a grocery store, with what would later be determined to be a bad check. Sandra was sentenced for her minor infraction with a thirty-day sentence in a local jail, putting the custody and welfare of her four children in the hands of her husband, Brandon.
When Sandi was released from jail, she returned to an empty house. Not only was Brandon gone, but so were her four children.
Going to the police gave her no answers. Since she had married Brandon Williams, Sandi was told that he was the children's stepfather, who had every right under the law to supervise the children as he saw fit.
With no help from law enforcement in the matter, Sandra Williams was able to track down two of her children. They had been dropped off at a local church-operated social services group, and had been left there in the weeks since. These two children were her middle children: daughters Allison and Amy.
Unfortunately, her oldest and youngest: five-year old Suzanne and one-year old Peter would not be found. And the mystery of what happened to the two would linger for the next four decades.
In November of 1983, Sharon Marshall was just a regular fifteen-year old girl who lived in the area of Atlanta, Georgia. At least, she was regular from the outside looking in.
She was a teenager with long, wavy blonde hair, piercing eyes, and an enticing personality that drew others to her. Very few people had bad encounters with Sharon; almost everyone in her high school classes recalled her as being nice, smart, outgoing, and thoughtful.
She loved to read. In fact, she loved to read so much that many remember her as being wise beyond her years. When the rest of her high school class was struggling to get through Shakespeare in class, she devoured it.
But in front of her father, Warren, Sharon became someone else. She was withdrawn, quiet, and downright submissive. This wasn't on accident.
Warren Marshall was in his mid-forties, and the very opposite of Sharon. He was personable, sure, but he was also quick to anger, with a personality that rubbed others the wrong way. He was dominating, in a way that he would take over conversations by going on tangents long enough to dull the other into giving up. On the outside, it seemed like years of this had taken their toll on Sharon, who deferred on every issue in her life to her father.
In November, just months after the beginning of the new school year, Warren enrolled Sharon in Forest Park High School, which was in an area just a few miles south of Atlanta. The odd thing is that this was the fourth high school Sharon was attending over the span of a year or so; which is odd, looking at in retrospect, but Sharon was an ideal student. Her grades were near the top of the class wherever she went, and she had no behavioral issues on her record whatsoever.
Before attending Forest Park High School, she had attended three high schools in the surrounding area. First at Northside High School and Riverdale High School, in different areas of Atlanta, and then Baldwin High School, roughly one-hundred miles away in Milledgeville.
No one could explain why this brilliant student moved around so much, but many figured that it had to do with her father, Warren. From the outside looking in, he was a single father struggling to make ends meet, so no one looked much further than that.
Jennifer Fisher was close to being the exact opposite of Sharon Marshall.
Jennifer grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a heavily-wooded area about twenty miles northeast of Atlanta, beyond Decatur. She grew up in a loving family, with her mother, Sue, and her father, Joel. Joel was an airline pilot, and Sue a stay-at-home mother, allowing Jennifer to grow up in a nurturing, homey environment.
Jennifer was a pretty regular teenager, in regards to Sharon. She didn't consider herself nearly as good-looking, and her grades weren't anything to write home about.
But, nonetheless, Jennifer found herself in Rome, Georgia in July of 1984, for a summer leadership camp held on a college campus. Jennifer had been elected to student council for the upcoming school year, and was chosen to attend the leadership camp in preparation for such duties.
This is where Jennifer Fisher would meet Sharon Marshall.
Over the next couple of weeks, the two would become close friends. They constantly discussed their dreams for the future: Jennifer, who merely wanted to get through school and move on with her life; and then Sharon, who wanted to attend Georgia Tech and become an aerospace engineer.
And, of course, they constantly talked about boys they liked.
Jennifer admired not only Sharon's drive in life, but her positive approach on it. Not only was she out to conquer the world, figuratively-speaking, but she seemed driven to keep a smile on her face throughout the process.
When the time was getting close to say goodbye, the two talked about remaining friends and keeping in-touch. Jennifer was positively giddy at the idea; not only was Sharon a year older than her, but she was exactly what she was looking for in a friend. The two clicked in a way that you only find a few times throughout your life, a feeling that I'm sure we're all familiar with. It's generally not an opportunity that you want to waste.
Oddly enough, Sharon was hesitant to give out any of her contact information. Jennifer didn't think too much of it, since Sharon had told her what a hard-ass her father, Warren, was. However, she gave Sharon her phone number, in the hopes that she would eventually call.
The two said goodbye, and went their separate ways for the rest of summer. As the days started to become weeks, Jennifer became nervous that the connection she had made with Sharon would be lost, so she began to search for a remedy. She looked up Sharon's contact phone number in her leftover leadership camp student directory, and on a night close to the end of summer break, gave the number a call.
Sharon answered, but she was less-than-thrilled that Jennifer had called. This wasn't the warm welcome she had imagined. Sharon sounded scared on the other end, demanding to know how Jennifer had obtained her phone number.
That was when a gruff voice took the phone from Sharon, demanding to know who was calling and how they had gotten the number. Jennifer could hear Sharon trying to explain things on the other end, before a loud "slam" cut the call short.
Needless to say, Jennifer was terrified that she had ruined things with a potential friend forever.
However, the following night, Jennifer would get a call back from not only Sharon, but her father, Warren, who joined her in apologizing. He tried to explain it away, saying he didn't like others getting in contact with him.
All seemed to be well, and the two teenage girls made plans for Sharon to stay over at the Fisher family home in the coming days.
The two girls were thrilled when they got to hang out. However, Jennifer's parents - Joel and Sue - were less-than-thrilled of their first impression with Sharon's father.
You see, Warren basically began asking them to help him find jobs in the area. He sold himself as the owner and proprietor of a painting company, who was always looking for new clients.
However, what began as Warren asking for recommendations quickly became him asking directly for money. It was only the second time that the two teenage girls would hang out together, but he began asking Jennifer's parents for a loan. He claimed that he had injured his back the year beforehand, and was getting shafted by the government.
Of course, Jennifer's parents didn't loan him any money. But they began to question him in general, not wanting Jennifer to spend the night over at Warren's home.
They held this mentality for a few months, but eventually the two teenage girls convinced Jennifer's mother, Sue, to crack. Her father, Joel, was a pilot away on a lengthy flight, so they were able to convince Sue to allow Jennifer to stay at the Marshall home.
Sue drove Jennifer over to Sharon's address, in her sleek-looking Mercedes. As she approached the destination, she immediately felt out-of-place... and even a little alarmed. It was a run-down trailer home community, which didn't look like the ideal place to raise a child.
Nonetheless, Sue dropped off Jennifer and couldn't be more eager to leave.
Inside the Marshall home, Jennifer got a good look at a photo of Sharon's alleged mother. It was an older black-and-white photo of a woman with shoulder-length dark hair. Jennifer told her that her mother was beautiful, and was told that she had died in a hit-and-run accident shortly after Sharon was born.
Needless to say, this would become relevant later on.
Jennifer was given a tour of the Marshall's small trailer home, and was surprised that there was only one door within the home. It was to a room in the back, where Jennifer was told not to go, in a stern warning from Warren. She complied, but years later, one has to wonder what was behind that door?
The rest of the rooms had simple sheets hanging in the door-frame, including Sharon's room.
That evening, Warren offered to take the two girls dancing. He enticed them to get all dressed up in Sharon's clothing, which they did. While getting dressed, Jennifer noticed many exotic garments that Sharon had: namely, lingerie. When questioned, she simply said that her dad was okay with having that kind of stuff, for boyfriends of hers.
Jennifer was getting the impression that Warren was a very lax father, who allowed his daughter more freedoms than she was getting from her own.
The three went out for dinner, Warren joking about going down to a shady area of town to harass and make fun of prostitutes. Warren also told Jennifer, on more than one occasion, that she was very attractive, just like Sharon. It was after dinner that Warren took the two girls to a seedy club. It was a pretty typical dive bar, full of older men that looked like bikers, and smelled like cigarettes. He talked to the bouncer, who let the two underage teenagers in without an ID needed, and then left the two girls to their own devices.
Throughout the next couple of hours, Sharon and Jennifer would giggle and dance, even when some of the grimy-looking patrons tried to dance with them. They ignored them, and just tried to have some fun with it.
Looking back at this experience, we can see it for being extremely creepy: allowing two teenage girls, who legally weren't even old enough to drive, to dress themselves up and dance in a seedy bar full of strangers. But, at the time, Jennifer didn't seem to think much of it... she honestly just thought that Warren Marshall was a cool dad to allow them the freedom to do that.
Little did she know, that wouldn't be the craziest thing he'd do that night.
Warren picked up the two, and took them back to the Marshall home. They giggled the entire way home, having had a good time despite the environment they were in. They went to Sharon's room, hidden behind the sheet acting as a door, and began to joke about what had happened.
This is when they began to make fun of some of the older, weirder-looking gentleman who had tried to dance with them.
As if on-cue, Warren burst into the room, his face red with anger and holding a gun in his hands. He threatened the girls, told them that they were making fun of men for no reason at all. The two girls panicked, especially Jennifer. Sharon was shocked, and began sobbing, but it seemed like this wasn't anything new to her.
Like a flip had switched, Warren became his generally happy-go-lucky self once again. He left Sharon's bedroom with a smile on his face, leaving the two girls to question what had caused his outburst.
Between tears, Sharon tried to tell Jennifer that her dad wasn't a bad man, he just had a temper from time-to-time. Jennifer would never mention this outburst to her parents - or anyone, for that matter - for quite some time, but needless to say, she would not be going over to the Marshall home again.
Something was definitely wrong with the man calling himself Warren Marshall.
Over the next couple of years, Sharon Marshall excelled at school. She kept continuously good grades, and was an active member of her school's ROTC. She impressed her teachers and staff with her great attitude, and was even well-liked among almost all of the students.
However, some staff recall being less fond of her father, Warren. He seemed to be absent from a lot of her school activities, only showing up to sign her up for school and for a single parent-teacher conference. Other than that, he was a ghost. Of course, they believed that this was due to him being a hard-working single father, so they didn't question it too much at the time.
During the single conference, staff recall being told that Sharon's mom had died of cancer, which they found as odd. Sharon didn't talk too often about her mother - or her personal life, for that matter - but had always said that she died in a hit-and-run car accident.
Staff were also exceedingly concerned about Sharon's wardrobe. She constantly dressed up in outfits that were every bit as risque as they were eccentric: oftentimes, she would show an amount of skin that staff found uncomfortable, and went against her rather-conservative nature. Also, the color schemes seemed to be all off, which implied that she wasn't the one picking out the outfits.
Despite her success in academics, it seemed like Sharon's relationship with her father was a constant detriment to her after-school activities. She would constantly have to be home by 4:30 every day, to clean up and prepare dinner for Warren. It didn't matter if this was a vitally important activity, she would find a way to escape to be there for her father.
While Sharon was excelling at her coursework, her friend Jennifer was struggling. She wasn't as enthused about her future, considering herself to be a mediocre student with not much potential in academics. Of course, this landed her in trouble with her parents, and over the next couple of years, she would face constant punishments that resulted in her communication with Sharon becoming scattered.
One day, after a family outing, Jennifer's family was returning home when they noticed that Warren's muddy pickup truck was sitting in their driveway. They hadn't planned on having Sharon over, so this gave them cause for concern. Then, they noticed that Warren and Sharon weren't inside their car... they were already waiting inside the Fisher home.
When they got inside, they found Warren laying down on a sofa, and Sharon sitting nearby with red eyes. It looked like she had been crying. Warren told Jennifer's father, Joel, that he had gotten in through the garage, which had been left open. Warren asked to speak to Joel, which was just another excuse for him to ask for money. Again, Joel refused. Warren left off in a huff, stating that he would be back in a few hours to pick up Sharon.
What's eerie about this encounter with Warren is that both of Jennifer's parents would later recall having closed the garage before leaving. And the worst part is that they had turned on their house alarm before leaving, meaning that Warren must have found some way around it, and been doing God knows what in their home before they got there.
As much as the Fishers loved Sharon, they were all beginning to think that something was seriously wrong with Warren Marshall.
In spring of 1985, Sharon got her first real boyfriend, a boy named Jason Anderson. People were confused why the two were together: Sharon being an intelligent, sensitive young woman, and Jason being the epitome of the 1980's high school jock.
However, the relationship was not long for this world. That's primarily because Warren was a constant presence on all of their dates and social outings. Sharon told him repeatedly that she felt bad about leaving him at home, since he was a single father that relied on her for so much.
So, Sharon and Jason broke up, after their handful of supervised, awkward dates. She would begin dating another boy - named Curtis Fluornoy - entering her senior year at Forest Park High School.
Sharon was looking forward to attending Georgia Tech, and beginning a lifetime working in aerospace engineering. She began putting in the legwork to attend, applying and trying to work out the finances behind-the-scenes. Because of her grades and extracurricular activities, Sharon would be eligible for a full scholarship to Georgia Tech, which she planned on taking.
However, her relationship with new boyfriend Curtis would result in some trouble for Sharon. As her senior year progressed, staff and students began to take note of her expanding waistline.
Because of this taxing time in Sharon's life, she was spending less and less time with her best friend, Jennifer. Jennifer herself was still struggling with school; being a year younger than Sharon didn't help, either. However, during one of their conversations during that year-span, Sharon told Jennifer that she had gotten into Georgia Tech, and had a full ride scholarship. She planned on later talking to her father about it, a conversation that seemed to have not gone well.
When it came time for Sharon's graduation, she wasn't allowed to walk with the rest of her class. This was because of Warren, who didn't want her exposing her pregnancy to the world at-large. Unknown to Warren, however, Sharon had begun making plans with Curtis, her high school boyfriend.
In the early days of that summer, 1986, Sharon and Curtis ran away together. I can't tell you what their goals or aspirations were in running away, but they made it as far as Alabama before being caught by Warren.
They had been staying at a grimy little motel near the Georgia-Alabama border, when Warren somehow managed to track them down. He confronted them in their motel room, the very-pregnant Sharon and her young, timid boyfriend. He calmed the two young lovebirds, saying that there would be time to discuss matters later and come to a peaceful resolution. He rented a room of his own, and the three decided to talk about returning home in the morning.
However, when Curtis woke up, Sharon and her father were gone. Instead, he found a note which had been tucked underneath the door to his room. It was written by Warren, and it told him that the baby Sharon was pregnant with was not his. As in, not Curtis'. The note also told Curtis that he and Sharon were done, and he wasn't going to look her up and talk to her any more.
Warren returned with Sharon to their home outside of Atlanta, but would announce shortly thereafter that they were moving to Arizona.
Jennifer Fisher was heart-broken, of course. Not only was her best friend moving to the other side of the country, but she was leaving behind a lifelong dream of going to Georgia Tech for aerospace engineering. Sharon insisted that she could always come back to it in a year or so, but needed to move to Arizona because of her father. She would make vague statements that they needed to move because of Warren's health, but didn't offer any specifics.
Sharon would remain in contact with Jennifer over the next few months. Between letters and phone calls, Jennifer would learn that Sharon had given birth to a baby boy, which she had apparently given up for adoption. Sharon claimed that the adopted family was a wealthy couple in Texas.
Sharon also dropped a few mentions of a boy she was seeing: a young man named Greg, whom she had met while working at a hotel in Phoenix.
However, Sharon also told Jennifer that she wanted to come out and visit that summer. Jennifer became increasingly excited about this visit, which would be a good time for them to catch up on time lost during Sharon's stressed, pregnant senior year.
Both Jennifer and her parents were surprised at the Sharon that came to visit them. She was no longer overly stressed or worried about being back in time to be with her father. She seemed to be utterly free, for the first time in her life.
Over the next two weeks, Jennifer and Sharon were teenagers once again. They stayed up late, giggled and laughed their way through the hot and humid Georgia summer nights, and simply had fun.
It was at around the two week mark that Sharon finally asked the Fisher family the question that she had been holding in for a fortnight. She asked if she could live with them. She wanted to get a job and get on her feet, but wanted to stay with them for the time being, at least until she could get off to Georgia Tech.
Sadly, the Fishers said no. I don't think they understood the implication of the question - at least, at the time - but they didn't want to cause a stir by taking in another man's daughter. They just didn't think it was right. So they offered to talk to Sharon's father about it, in order to get permission, but Sharon seemed to drop the question entirely.
As if someone had just dumped a bucket of cold water over her, Sharon became withdrawn. She told the Fishers that she would be returning to her father the next day, on the same bus that she had used to travel out there. The Fishers, at least, didn't want her travelling cross-country on a bus all by herself. And since Joel worked for an airline, he offered to book her a flight, an offer she reluctantly accepted.
The next morning, teary-eyed, Sharon and Jennifer said their goodbyes at the airport terminal. Unknown to them, it would be the last time that their paths would cross.
Following their goodbye at the Atlanta airport in the summer of 1986, Jennifer kept up infrequent contact with Sharon. It was just the random letter or phone call here and there, most of which wasn't very noteworthy.
After not hearing from Sharon for a matter of months, Jennifer was surprised to get a phone call from her friend in the Fall of 1986. Sharon told Jennifer that she was in South Carolina with her father, but most of all, Sharon sounded distressed. This wasn't the fun-loving Sharon that Jennifer had become friends with; she was back to the stressed, worried Sharon that she became when her father was angry. During this phone call, Sharon asked Jennifer to come up and see her, in South Carolina.
Now, this happened while Jennifer was still in high school, so there wasn't much she could do. She thought about asking her father, Joel, but realized how ridiculous it sounded. So as this conversation progressed, Sharon kept halfheartedly pleading with her to come visit, but Jennifer kept skirting around the issue. That was when a gruff male presence took over the phone. It was Warren. He aggressively asked Jennifer what kind of friend she was, and that was when Jennifer decided to hang up on the two. The entire situation just seemed odd, and it frightened her.
Sharon wrote a letter to Jennifer a few weeks later, apologizing for that phone incident, and informed Jennifer that her and Warren were moving to Florida.
Jennifer got a congratulations card in the mail from Sharon that following spring, in 1987. It was congratulating Jennifer for all of her hard work in school. You see, without many distractions, Jennifer was able to focus on school, and became quite the scholar. Her GPA rose significantly that year, allowing her to attend college the following year. While she wondered what Sharon was up to, travelling the United States with her father, she began to look forward to a life of her own.
Over the next few months, Jennifer discovered that Sharon was working at a bar in Tampa. She bragged about meeting all kinds of rock stars who visited the club, such as the band members of Van Halen. However, Jennifer was shocked when Sharon told her about the breast implants she was getting; it just seemed so unlike her.
The communication between the two friends continued to splinter and become more scattered. They once had been as close as sisters, sharing everything, but after returning to her father in Phoenix, Sharon had almost become a phantom. Almost all communication was accomplished from her end. It made Jennifer sad that she couldn't share the important aspects of her life with who she considered her best friend, but there was little she could do.
On one of their final calls, in the winter between 1987 and 1988, Jennifer was surprised to hear that Sharon had given birth to a baby boy named Michael. He was apparently six months old already, which meant that she had been holding back on the information for quite a while without Jennifer finding out. She felt happy for Sharon, but at the same time, I can't imagine how that feels, to have such a big aspect of your friend's life kept from you like a secret.
After these final calls, where Sharon dropped the revelations of a baby boy and getting breast implants, all communication between the two friends dropped off. Jennifer moved on with her life, going to school, where she would eventually fall in love with a Navy boy.
When Jennifer was getting married in 1992, she wanted Sharon to be her maid-of-honor, but alas, Sharon was gone in the wind. She had no idea where her friend was, after years of silence.
Jennifer wouldn't know what had become of her friend until 1994, when she received a phone call from her mother, Sue. Sadly, the friend that Jennifer had known as "Sharon Marshall" was dead.
Tonya Dawn Hughes, formerly Tonya Dawn Tadlock, had begun working at a Tulsa, Oklahoma strip club called Passions in 1989.
To all of her coworkers, she seemed a bit distant. She was a kind enough young woman, but she kept to herself most of the time, spending her rare minutes of free time at the club reading.
Tonya, as she was known, was a hard worker. She was constantly at work, rarely even getting a day off for herself. The people at the club had become familiar with her husband, an older-gentleman named Clarence Hughes, who was overbearing to the point of nausea. While Tonya spent most of her days and nights at Passions, Clarence was responsible for supervising the couple's two-year-old son, Michael.
However, Clarence seemed to drive Tonya to work every night, at times just waiting in the parking lot for her to finish her shift. When he wasn't waiting for her, he was making frequent calls to the club, making sure that she was still there and working hard.
Eventually, Tonya's co-workers caught on to Clarence's annoying habits, and would cover for her when she was busy. See, they had all begun to notice the bruises on Tonya, especially on the nights when she earned less than two-hundred bucks. In a club full of women that had fallen down-on-their-luck, Tonya seemed like a special case, trapped in a hell that few can even imagine.
Clarence was an imposing figure in Tonya's life. She never seemed to regard him as an equal, as a wife should see her husband; it seemed like she thought of him as her captor.
Karen Parsley, a dancer who became Tonya's closest friend at the club, went by the name Connie. Both were what we'd now call "straight-edge": they disliked drugs, and didn't touch them. The two seemed to bond over their future goals, constantly dreaming of moving up the social ladder for bigger things.
Tonya didn't talk to many people at the club, but Karen was one of her few friends there. The two talked about many things, but something that kept getting brought up was Tonya's personal life; namely, her relationship with her husband, Clarence. She was frightened by him, as evident by statements she made about him. She would tell Karen that she had left him twice before, and both times, he had managed to catch up with her.
Tonya also said that if she tried running away again, Clarence would kill not only her, but the couple's two year old son, Michael.
Clarence Hughes, Tonya's husband who claimed to be in his mid-forties but looked at least ten years older than that, was a very irksome man.
As I've already stated, he wasn't working. He seemed to be sucking off of Tonya's strip club earnings, constantly hounding her to work more and more while beating her if she didn't meet a daily quota. He claimed to have a bad back from a work accident years beforehand, but tried to milk it for all that it was worth.
Despite his odd persona, Clarence had discovered how to make some connections in the Tulsa area. He had become a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, despite not being a cop, and had many friends in local police departments. This just added to Tonya's hesitance to run away; after all, Clarence had thoroughly convinced her that he could track her down anywhere.
However, behind her husband's back, Tonya began to fool around with a local college student, who had become a regular at the Passions strip club she worked at. His name was Kevin Brown, and the two began carrying on a secret relationship during the hours that Clarence thought she was working. When Clarence was sitting in the parking lot, waiting for her to get off of work, she was sneaking off with Kevin for sit-down dinners and mini-dates.
As this relationship blossomed under Clarence's nose, Tonya and her beau, Kevin Brown, began to fall in love. He was offering to help her run away from Clarence, taking her and her son, Michael, far away beyond her husband's grasp. She initially refused, but began to take to the idea.
It was in March of 1990 that Tonya finally caved in to Kevin's suggestions. She was planning to run away from Tulsa with Kevin and Michael.
The next few weeks, Tonya had an extra bounce in her step. She now knew that there was hope on the horizon. Her work friend, Karen, took note of this, and not only approved of her idea to run away, but encouraged it.
Karen openly disliked Tonya's older, creepy husband, and silently championed Tonya's newfound spirit.
However, the sad truth is that within a month, the woman calling herself Tonya Hughes would be dead.
In April of 1990, about a hundred miles away in Oklahoma City, three men were driving down the highway. It was late, a short while after midnight, and they were weary travelers. They had just passed a truck stop, when two of the men noticed something intriguing on the side of the road.
At first, they thought it was just their imagination getting to them. But as they slowed down, they realized that they were, indeed, looking at a body.
They sped down the road, towards the nearest business they could find. It was a Motel 6. The three men jumped out and urged the front desk clerk to call the police, as there was a body resting on the side of the road.
The phone call to police dispatchers came in at 12:55 AM. Police and paramedics arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, discovering, much to their surprise, that the woman was still alive.
As the paramedics rushed the young, blonde-haired woman to the nearby downtown Presbyterian Hospital, the police began to look around where the woman had been struck. They assumed, of course, that she had been hit by a car. They found groceries surrounding her, and a portable radio with headphones that led them to believe she had been using it at the time.
They also found some red paint chips, which led police to think that a red-colored vehicle had hit her.
With the direction that she was walking, police surmised that she had been walking from a local convenience store back to the Motel 6, where they discovered later she had been staying. Witnesses at the convenience store stated that she had been in there at around 12:30, meaning that the three men that discovered her arrived just shortly after the incident had occurred.
As the woman arrived at the hospital, doctors noted that she had bruises on a good portion of her body, and a large hematoma at the base of her skull. They assumed that she had been hit from behind. As they began to examine her, she kept muttering the word "daddy" in an unconscious state.
Throughout the night, the young woman was marked as being in stable, but serious condition. She had suffered the head injury, which was causing her brain to swell, but suffered no serious broken bones or even a scratch.
It wasn't until the morning that they would find out her identity. And that was when her husband, Clarence Hughes, arrived.
Clarence Hughes was at the Motel 6, claiming to have fallen asleep after his wife, Tonya Hughes, went to get groceries late at night. He claimed to have found out about his wife's accident the morning after, when he spoke to the attendant in the hotel lobby. He then got in touch with police, who informed him about the young, blonde woman that had been admitted to Presbyterian Hospital hours beforehand.
Clarence told police that the two had been traveling to Oklahoma City to meet with Tonya's gynecologist, despite all of her coworkers later saying that she never had appointments in Oklahoma City beforehand.
Police took note of Clarence's vehicle, which was a blue Oldsmobile 88. They didn't see any red on it, so they assumed that he had had nothing to do with his wife's accident.
When Clarence stepped into Tonya's hospital room, he seemed unfazed by the sight of his unconscious wife hooked up to a variety of medical machines. In fact, one of the first things he did in that room was request a piece of paper and a pen, so that he could make a "No Visitors" sign to tape onto her door. The hospital staff were taken off-guard by this, and immediately began to distrust Clarence.
That day, Clarence called the Passions strip club that Tonya worked at, and wanted to make arrangements to pick up her final paycheck. When questioned about what had happened to Tonya, he told them what had happened to the younger woman.
Karen, Tonya's co-worker that called herself "Connie" on-stage, drove the two hours to go and see Tonya at the Presbyterian Hospital she was staying at. She took Tonya's secret boyfriend, Kevin Brown, with her. The two were led in to Tonya's room by hospital staff, despite the unusual "no visitors" sign that Clarence had posted to the door.
This is how it progressed for the next few days. Tonya seemed to stir every now and then, recovering from her traumatic brain injury, but mostly muttered "daddy" as if she was under duress. Clarence visited a couple of times, usually with two-year old Michael in-tow, but hospital staff were beginning to get concerned for the child's well-being. His temperament seemed to be off, as he was prone to angry outbursts of crying fits, and he had begun to perpetually smell of urine.
After one of these visits, Clarence phoned Tonya's friend and co-worker Karen, exploding with anger after discovering she had been visiting Tonya behind his back. It was then that Clarence changed subjects entirely, asking Karen if she wanted to purchase all of their belongings back in their Tulsa trailer home. This really messed with her. After all Karen had heard of Clarence, she knew that him trying to literally clear house meant that he might be pulling up stakes and getting out of town, and right now, Tonya was his hostage.
Karen warned the hospital about Tonya being in danger, and asked that they keep her informed of any changes to her friend. It was the next morning that hospital staff called her, and told her that Tonya was being moved to life support. Her condition had worsened overnight, seemingly out of nowhere, after a visit from her husband, Clarence.
Karen rushed up to OKC, but by the time she got there, she was too late. Clarence's ridiculous "no visitor" sign had been removed from the door, and Tonya's room was empty.
The woman calling herself Tonya Hughes was dead.
In the end, the woman known as Tonya Hughes had a positive effect on multiple people.
Per the wishes of her husband, Clarence Hughes, her organs were donated to a variety of patients. Her organs were sent to multiple patients around the country, and ended up helping them live positive, healthy lives.
However, it was by no coincidence that Tonya was an organ donor. When the hospital staff had tried to get in-touch with Clarence Hughes, to inform him that his wife was knocking on death's door, he had no interest in coming to visit. He simply demanded that her organs be donated and her body be cremated.
This shocked Karen, Tonya's work-friend, who had discussed those sort of things with Tonya during their many introspective conversations. Karen plead with the owner of the club they worked at, a man by the name of JR Buck, to cover the costs of a funeral. He most graciously accepted. And, after a desperate phone call to Clarence Hughes, he too accepted.
The funeral for Tonya Hughes was arranged for Friday, May 4th, 1990.
A few days before the funeral for his wife, Clarence Hughes opted to have his two-year old son, Michael, put into temporary foster care.
His rationale was that he was too stressed and too overwhelmed to care for Michael at the current time. Most people would perhaps get a child care specialist to care for him for a few days, especially since the child would be reeling from the loss of a loving parent, but Clarence decided to instead put his troubled young son in foster care for a couple of weeks.
Ernest and Merle Bean were a couple living in Oklahoma, who had fostered over sixty children by this point in early 1990. Ernest was a Vietnam vet who now worked with appliance repair, and Merle was a stay-at-home housewife, and the two were closely tied to their Southern Baptist church. By all accounts, they are outstanding individuals who have done more good than most, and dedicated a majority of their lives to fostering children from terrible homes, just to give them a little slice of happiness in life.
Despite all of the terrible cases of child abuse the Beans would encounter over their long, illustrious lives as foster parents, very few came close to two-year old Michael Hughes.
The young boy was emotionally stunted. He was behind other children his age when it came to basic things, such as speaking or being potty-trained, but was also emotionally volatile. He would explode with crying spells at the drop of a hat, and would fly backwards, pounding his head against the ground.
At first, the Beans didn't know how to deal with Michael. Despite their extensive background with troubled children, Michael was beyond them. But, they decided to endure this hardship and hoped to bring some sort of stability to Michael's life, for the time being.
The autopsy of Tonya Hughes had revealed a troubled portrait of the young woman's life.
The medical examiner discovered bruises and prior injuries that were unrelated to the car accident. All of those, paired with what they believed to be multiple prior pregnancies and cheap plastic surgeries, led medical examiners to question what had happened to the poor young woman they saw before them. Her cause-of-death was officially labeled a homicide, a byproduct of a hit-and-run.
As the funeral of Tonya Hughes approached, her coworker and friend Karen continued to fight on her behalf. She plead with social workers to keep two-year old Michael out of Clarence's custody, and she also made calls to local police, warning them that Clarence was the one responsible for his wife's murder.
When Friday arrived, the Ninde Garden Chapel was filled up with an unusual crowd. All of the attendees were people that Tonya had known from the strip club: dancers, the owner JR Buck, bouncers, her boyfriend Kevin Brown, and even some of her regular customers. However, there were no family or outside friends present. It was as if Tonya was a ghost, who appeared out of thin-air and had no prior relationships with anyone.
The only exception to that was Clarence, who arrived in about as dramatic fashion as one could imagine. He arrived to the chapel wearing a dark suit, which his recently-dyed red hair was dripped down the back of. With him, however, were two off-duty Tulsa sheriff's deputies. "Bodyguards," he called them.
Instead of letting Tonya's memory rest in peace, Clarence decided to lead the proceedings. He derided all of those that were in attendance, ironically stating that they lived in sin. He became a two-bit preacher with an ax-to-grind. He also demanded that the rest of the attendees let Tonya's memory rest in peace, stating that she had secrets that would best die with her.
Most unusually of all, though, before he left the Chapel, Clarence put a framed photo on top of Tonya's casket. This picture was of a little blonde-haired girl, sitting on the lap of an older man. If one looked closely enough, they could see the resemblance between the photo and Clarence. However, that would mean that the older man standing before them, preaching un-ironically about sin and temptation, would have known his young wife since she was a child.
In the preceding months, Clarence had taken out two life insurance policies on his wife, Tonya. They totaled around $80,000, and both had Clarence as their main benefactor.
Just hours after putting his wife to rest, Clarence began calling the life insurance companies to collect on the policies.
When asked for a social security number, Clarence gave them one that amounted to nothing. Stating that he was grieving, he gave another. Same result.
So, Clarence decided to give them a nine-digit social security number that he hadn't used in some time. After a few minutes of processing, the clerk came back and told him everything was in-order.
It must have been the tone in the clerk's voice, but something gave it away to Clarence. He immediately packed his bags and hit the road, trying to put Oklahoma City behind him.
You see, that third sequence of numbers that Clarence offered was a real social security number. But it belonged to a fugitive that had been on the run for almost twenty years, a man by the name of Franklin Delano Floyd.
Part Two: Franklin Delano Floyd
In April of 1990, the body of a young woman was found on the side of a highway in Oklahoma City. Police quickly surmised that she was the victim of a hit-and-run, the perpetrator unknown to them.
Admitted to a nearby hospital, the staff there discovered that this woman had lived a troubled life. Not only was she covered in bruises unrelated to the accident, her body showed signs of multiple pregnancies and had had multiple cheap plastic surgeries in the past.
When her husband, a much older man by the name of Clarence Hughes, showed up the next day, the hospital staff discovered their fears were grounded in reality. He tried to bar any visitors from seeing his wife - who they discovered was named Tonya. And when she mysterious passed away after a final visit from Clarence, he quickly asked for her organs to be donated and her body to be cremated.
Thankfully, coworkers of hers - who worked at a Tulsa area strip club named Passions - were able to raise the funds for a funeral. There, however, Clarence Hughes created drama by showing up with armed guards, cop friends of his. Then, just hours after the woman known as Tonya Hughes was laid to rest, Clarence called to collect on two life insurance policies he had taken out in the preceding months, totaling $80,000.
However, in the process of trying to redeem the policies, Clarence slipped. You see, his name wasn't actually Clarence Hughes, and the woman he had just buried wasn't named Tonya. The name of the social security number he gave to the insurance company was Franklin Delano Floyd, a wanted fugitive who had managed to escape justice for almost twenty years.
Franklin Delano Floyd was born on June 17th, 1943, in the small town known as Barnesville, Georgia. He was the youngest of five kids. The oldest child - Billy - was born in 1933, and was followed by three sisters in later years, eventually culminating in the birth of Franklin.
The father, Thomas H. Floyd, was a cotton mill-worker who was an alcoholic. While nice and endearing during the daytime, he was also abusive towards his family when drunk. Most of his kids had traumatized memories of his angry wroth, but his main victim was the family's mother, Della.
Della Floyd, formerly Della Fowler, was a stay-at-home mother, who didn't have any experience in the work-force.
Before Franklin turned one, his father, Thomas Floyd, passed away in June of 1944. He died of kidney and liver failure, almost assuredly onset by his alcoholism. Della, just twenty-nine years old, become the sole guardian of five kids and was forced to try and enter the workforce with no prior experience in anything.
After fifteen months of struggling, and living in a second-story apartment above a grocery store owned by Della's parents, she was eventually asked to leave. With no other option, Della looked to give up custody of her five children, in the interest of their own lives.
She got in touch with the Georgia Baptist Children's Home, which was in Hapeville, Georgia, roughly an hour north, near Atlanta.
This was in January of 1946, just a short time after the official end of World War Two. While men returned from the war, and women began to assimilate into the American workforce, the Georgia Baptist Children's Home had a reputation. It was not a particularly kind place towards children, and the people there were not experienced child care specialists. These were often folks that were inexperienced entirely, and relied heavily on punishment in order to raise proper Christian men and women.
That is, not to say, that the current Georgia Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministry doesn't do good work. But the horrors that Franklin Delano Floyd would have to endure for the next two decades perhaps made him into the monster he would later become.
Franklin Floyd was just two-and-a-half years old when he was given up by his mother, Della, to the Georgia Baptist Children's Home. His older siblings, still young and naive to the ways of the world, at least had a grip on their situation: they knew that their mother couldn't care for them anymore.
Franklin, however, struggled heavily after being taken into the Children's Home. For the first few nights, he would try and sneak into bed with his siblings, only to get punished and quarantined to a room with other children his age.
The regiment the children would become used to consisted of daily schoolwork and yard work, including gardening. The punishments doled out by their often-inexperienced caretakers lacked any imagination, but often exceeded in brutality. They were whipped and smacked for relatively minor infractions, such as annoying others or making too much noise.
The mother of the five kids, Della, often petitioned to visit the kids, but since she had given up her parental rights, it was justified in the law for the Children's Home to refuse her. She visited a handful of times, but requests to see the kids more often were rejected outright.
The Children's Home was doing its best to strip away any sense of the past from the five Floyd children. Eventually, they were all separated to different units based on their age bracket, and would never see each other.
Franklin, who was a pretty intelligent boy, was often picked on for his mannerisms that other boys viewed as "feminine." They often beat him when their caretakers weren't around, but continued to tease and taunt even when they were. This eventually culminated in an experience that Franklin would recall later in life, when he alleges to have been sodomized as a six-year old by another boy with a broomstick.
Needless to say, this entire ordeal makes me question the entire basis of the "nature vs. nurture" arguments. Obviously, mental illness comes into play with these types of stories consistently, but I doubt that Franklin Floyd would have become the monster he was later in life without this horrifying upbringing. While I feel no sympathy for the criminal he would become, one can't help but feel terrible for the innocent child he once was.
Franklin Delano Floyd spent the rest of his childhood in the Georgia Baptist Children's Home, struggling consistently. Despite being a bright and handsome young man, he was prone to outbursts.
He would often get in fights with other kids, which is justifiable enough when you learn the things being done to him. Franklin was constantly getting in trouble with staff at the Children's Home, not only for fighting, but also for stealing chocolate from the commissary.
As a teenager, he had his hand dipped in hot water after being caught masturbating. This was when Franklin began to continuously act up, failing every school subject and attempting to run away multiple times.
In 1959, Franklin ran away to a nearby home, where he broke in and stole some food. The Children's Home bartered with one of his older sisters, Dorothy, who had left the school a few years beforehand. They told her that if Franklin went to live with her, they'd avoid having charges filed against Franklin.
Dorothy accepted, and Franklin was sent to live with her, her military husband, and two children.
Unfortunately, after just a few weeks, Dorothy's husband told her that he wanted Franklin out of the house. He viewed the young man as reckless and dangerous, and didn't want his behavior anywhere near the couple's kids.
After that, Franklin was able to live with a local judge for a handful of months. The judge must have thought he could help rehabilitate the young man, but it wasn't long for this world.
Then, Franklin sought out his mother, Della, of whom he had faint memories of. He knew that she had moved and remarried a few times following the death of Thomas Floyd. He was able to track her down to Indianapolis, where he discovered that she was working as a prostitute.
One can only guess what this did to Franklin's psyche, as he didn't stay with Della for long. Over the next two weeks, Franklin convinced Della to help him forge his legal documents, allowing him to enlist in the United States Army. And he did just that, travelling all of the way to California and enlisting there on July 11th, 1959.
Just like Franklin's life up to this point, it wasn't permanent. He was kicked out of the Army less than six months later, when they discovered that he was under-age and had forged his documents to enlist.
When he tried to find his mother again in Indianapolis, she was gone. At this point, Franklin Floyd began drifting across the country.
Over the next few months, Franklin Floyd visited multiple parts of the United States. Records show that he visited most of the corners of the US, including cities such as Philadelphia, New York City, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Los Angeles.
What he got up to is anyone's guess.
However, Franklin Floyd continued to live up to his troubled reputation when he was in Inglewood, California. It was February 19th, 1960, and Franklin Floyd was just sixteen years old. He decided to break into a Sears store, where he was planning to steal a gun. And according to police reports, he did accomplish his goal by getting his hands on a weapon.
Fortunately, though, the robbery was botched by the quick police response time to a burglary alarm. Franklin got in a shoot-out with the responding officers, which resulted in him getting shot in the stomach. Thankfully, the officers emerged from the shootout unscathed.
Franklin survived the surgery, and was placed in a Youth Institute in Preston, California, for the next year or so. He was eventually arrested in 1961 for breaking the terms of his parole after going on a Canadian camping trip with a friend of his, and would undergo psychiatric testing in 1962.
Apparently, the results were inconclusive, because just months later, that May, Franklin decided to move back to the only home he had ever known. He returned to Hapeville, Georgia, the site of the Baptist Children's Home that he despised. I can only guess why he decided to return to this region - an area he hated so deeply - but he must have done so in an effort to bring some stability back to his psyche.
However, it wasn't long before Franklin Delano Floyd would show the world what kind of man he had become.
Or, rather, the kind of man the world had made him into.
It was June of 1962, and Franklin Floyd had been living in Hapeville for about a month. He lived not far from the Baptist Children's Home that he had grown up in, and had been working at the Atlanta International Airport located close by.
This is when Franklin decided to commit one of the most heinous crimes imaginable.
Franklin Delano Floyd decided to abduct a four-year old girl that was at a local bowling alley, and he led her off into the nearby woods, where he would sexually assault her. Floyd was arrested and charged with kidnapping and child molestation.
In July of 1962, Floyd plead not-guilty, but was sentenced to a lengthy jail sentence for his crime. Ten to twenty years, which he would spend in Reidsville State Prison. Or, rather, he would have spent at Reidsville, had it not been for his first escape attempt.
In November of that year, he was sent to Milledgeville State Hospital, where he would undergo psychiatric testing. Then, a few months after that, he escaped while on his way to have his eyes checked out. He stole a car, drove thirty miles southwest, and bought a pellet gun, which he used in a bank robbery. He managed to rob over six-thousand dollars from the Citizens and Southern Bank there in Macon.
However, he didn't get that far afterwards. He was captured later that day.
In July of 1963, a year after his child molestation conviction, he was convicted for the bank robbery and sentenced to fifteen years at the Federal Reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Just two months after this, he attempted another escape, but this time it would be botched from the get-go. He was captured immediately, along with two other inmates, and given a five-year concurrent charge that was simply added to his rap sheet.
However, with this last escape attempt, he was also given a punishment worse than death. He was transferred from the Federal Reformatory to a Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
If you're unfamiliar with Federal Penitentiaries, they are usually the place where the worst of the worst go to languish. It's often people convicted of serious crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, etc. And now, at just twenty years old, Franklin Floyd was being locked into a personal hell with monsters just like him - or worse.
Needless to say, Franklin Delano Floyd did not fare well at Lewisburg. He was regularly beaten and raped by other inmates, not only for being a young-looking hothead, but also for being a child molester. He was viewed as the lowest of the low, and prison staff seemed to have no pity for him.
He began to float the idea of suicide, at one point climbing to the top of a tower and threatening to jump off. When he didn't, he was seen by a psychiatric unit for a few days, and then returned to the general population, where the beatings and rapes continued.
After a year of this hell, Franklin Floyd was sent for more psychiatric testing in 1964, but was then sent to Marion, Illinois, to another Federal Pen, in February of 1965.
This prison was no kinder towards Franklin, and he endured much of the same agony he had to face at Lewisburg. However, within a short order of time, he was able to obtain protection: meaning, of course, that instead of falling victim to multiple offenders, he only had to perform sexual favors for one person.
This carried on for the next few years. Floyd would remain at Marion Federal Penitentiary until 1968, and during that span of time, he would study and earn his GED.
In 1968, Floyd was transferred back to Reidsville State Prison, in Georgia, to finish serving his sentence for the bank robbery and child molestation convictions.
The cruel treatment of Franklin Floyd continued at Reidsville, at least until Floyd befriended a man by the name of David Dial. He was a large man, who was serving a four-year sentence for drug-related offenses. Floyd and Dial became close friends, and became closely-tied to the Church Of The New Song movement: a religious prison revolution that began in the Atlanta area in the late 1960s.
The two became close friends, and allegations would continue to surface in later years that Dial was privy to Floyd's heinous crimes, and perhaps even aided and abetted them in some way.
But after serving a few years at Reidsville State Prison, Franklin Delano Floyd was pardoned from his state charges in November of 1971. His federal charges would follow a year later, and Franklin Floyd was close to finding himself a free man once again.
Franklin Floyd was sent to a halfway home in November of 1972, allowing him to mingle in the real world once again. He did a good job of appearing to assimilate back into society, but that wasn't long for this world.
On January 19th, 1973, Floyd was released from the halfway home. This meant that he was now an active member of society once again, with no real oversight. He managed to make it a week in the real world before getting himself in trouble once again.
It was on January 27th that Franklin attempted to kidnap a young woman at a gas station. Pretending his finger was a gun, he took the woman into her car, where he tried to grope and sexually assault the woman. She was able to get out of the car and run away, and Floyd was soon arrested for the crime.
Facing another stint in prison, Franklin Floyd called up his prison friend, David Dial, who had been released at around the same time that Floyd was. Dial was able to post Floyd's bond, and from this point forward, he would become a fugitive.
When Franklin Delano Floyd failed to arrive for his June 11th court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. This warrant would stand for the next twenty years, becoming noteworthy only when the social security number of Franklin Delano Floyd was used to try and collect the life insurance policies of Tonya Tadlock Hughes.
The next year or so is compiled of guesswork.
Many theorize that Floyd might have been staying with his friend, David Dial, in the town of Newnan, Georgia, for a chunk of time.
From there, Franklin Floyd went on the run, becoming a drifter. Rumors followed his siblings, who seemed to recall sightings of him. His sister, Tommye, lived in Weston, Connecticut, and there were rumors of him being spotted up there - correlating with a burglary that allegedly took place at her house. In 1974, his sisters believed that he was living in Fairfax, Virginia, with his older brother, Billy.
Billy Floyd, Franklin's older brother, had a reputation of being a hothead like Franklin. However, he also had the reputation of being pretty dim, unlike Franklin, who was actually pretty bright.
From there, Franklin's older sister Dorothy would recall the two brothers visiting her in Sumton, South Carolina, some time in 1974.
This is where the little girl known as Suzanne Sevakis enters the story.
If you recall, in the beginning of last episode, I told you the story of a young single mother named Sandra Chapman - Sandi, for short.
She would have four kids with two different fathers: Suzanne was the first, born in 1969, her father being Sandi's high school sweetheart, Cliff Sevakis. She would then remarry to Dennis Brandenburg in the early 1970s, welcoming three more kids to the fold: Allison, born in 1971; Amy, born in 1972, and her only son, Phillip, born in 1974.
Sandi and Dennis split up at around the time of Phillip's birth in 1974, and a short time after that, she met a new man named Brandon Cleo Williams at a truck stop in North Carolina.
After decades of investigating, police discovered that "Brandon Cleo Williams" was one of the many aliases that Franklin Delano Floyd would use while on the run from law enforcement over the next two decades.
The young family would move down to Texas on Floyd's wishes, showing a method he liked to employ through his life: separating his victims from anyone that could help them. Sandi Chapman seemed enthusiastic about the move at first, eager for a fresh start to a life that wasn't going her way yet. Her and the man calling himself Brandon Williams got married shortly thereafter, and he officially became the stepfather to her four children.
It was in 1975 that Sandi Chapman got in trouble for writing a bad check for diapers at a grocery store. She was arrested, and given a thirty-day sentence at a local jail for her infraction. She entrusted the welfare of her four kids to her new husband, Brandon Williams, and felt assured that he'd take care of them in her absence.
Upon her release, though, she discovered that Brandon Williams was gone - as were her four kids: Suzanne, Allison, Amy, and Phillip.
Police refused to help her, or even let her file a missing persons report. As far as they were concerned, the kids were off with their rightful guardian, their stepfather. Her being a recently-released convict, as well, surely did her no favors with law enforcement.
Sandi Chapman was able to track down two of her children, Allison and Amy, who were in the care of a nearby church-run social services group. But her other two children, five-year old Suzanne and one-year old Phillip, would remain missing.
Investigators would find out later on that Suzanne would become Franklin Delano Floyd's prisoner, a young he raised from childhood to be his daughter and later his wife.
Phillip Brandenburg, the youngest of the siblings, has never been found. To this day, his fate is still unresolved.
After leaving Texas with Suzanne Sevakis, Franklin Delano Floyd turned to the area of Oklahoma City.
He changed his name to Trenton Davis, and he managed to obtain a job as a maintenance worker for the local school system. He enrolled Suzanne Sevakis - now Suzanne Davis - in Wilson Elementary School.
Knowing what we now know about Franklin Delano Floyd, and living in this day and age, it's hard to fathom just how he was able to get away with all of this. He was able to obtain jobs and legally marry people under false identities, and was able to essentially abscond with a little girl without a police report even being possible.
Floyd would live in Oklahoma City for the next few years, using the identity of Trenton Davis the entire time. Suzanne began to gain a reputation at school of being an incredibly sharp little girl, and began to show the promise of a bright future.
However, it was in 1978 that allegations began to surround Floyd and his young daughter. A babysitter that he had employed to watch Suzanne told police that Trenton Davis - aka Franklin Floyd - was molesting his daughter.
This was becoming a behavior for Floyd: every time any attention was paid to him, or a spotlight was shown on his facade, he scattered like a cockroach. He and Suzanne fled the OKC area, leaving his job and their home behind. After a quick stop in Arizona, where Suzanne attended Sevilla Primary School in Phoenix, the two ended up in Louisville, Kentucky, which would become another one of Franklin Floyd's go-to spots.
During this exodus from Oklahoma City, the identities of the two would change. Trenton Davis, formerly Franklin Floyd, would become Warren Marshall. Suzanne Davis, formerly Suzanne Sevakis, would become Sharon Marshall.
The two eventually ended up in the Atlanta, Georgia area in the early 1980s, eventually culminating in Sharon's prestigious high school career, her friendship to Jennifer Fisher, and her first pregnancy.
After the death of his wife Tonya Hughes, the name Franklin Delano Floyd was brought to the attention of law enforcement for the first time since 1973. Using the alias Clarence Hughes, he had taken out two life insurance policies on the young woman the world knew as Tonya Hughes.
At the time, police had no idea that Tonya Hughes was a fake identity. But the social security number that belonged to Franklin Delano Floyd triggered a response, and police moved in on the apartment Clarence had been staying at in Oklahoma City.
He had abandoned it, just like his trailer home in Tulsa. He was on the run yet again.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, also known as the DHS, became concerned for the well-being of Clarence and Tonya's two-year old son, Michael. He was in the custody of Ernest and Merle Bean, lifelong foster parents.
Karen, Tonya's coworker and friend, began to plead with DHS to never return Michael to Clarence's custody. Of course, in retrospect, this seems like an easy move, but no one was aware of Clarence's true identity as a child molester, and her decision to battle on behalf of young Michael seems like a premonition. He would stay with the Bean family for the foreseeable future, where he struggled to overcome his numerous behavioral issues.
While police became intrigued by the possibility of fugitive Franklin Floyd being involved in the death of Tonya Hughes, it was her coworker Karen that began to look for any possible family members of Tonya.
Along with the club owner of Passions, JR Buck, Karen began to search for anybody related to the deceased young woman. They knew that her maiden name was Tadlock, so it didn't take long to find a woman by the name of Tonya Tadlock, whose age roughly matched up with their Tonya's. However, when they got in touch with the family of Tonya Dawn Tadlock, they discovered that she was an infant and had died over two decades beforehand. Franklin had simply found the identity of a dead child, and had Tonya slip into the role for legal purposes.
Six weeks after fleeing Oklahoma City, police finally caught up with Franklin Delano Floyd.
He was living in Augusta, Georgia, working odds jobs such as painter and carpenter: the type of jobs where no one asked too many questions.
US Marshals were the ones who made the arrest, finding Floyd at a makeshift home in a trailer park off of Barton Chapel Road at 3:30 in the morning.
These Marshals discovered that Floyd had been using the aliases of Trenton Davis, Dreston Morgan, Whistle Britches Floyd, Kingfish Floyd, and Clarence Hughes over the past twenty or so years, among others. He admitted that all of the names were found on tombstones in cemeteries, as was the case with Tonya Dawn Tadlock, his young wife.
Despite being such a divisive figure, assuming identities on the run for close to two decades, Franklin Delano Floyd was only facing charges for his kidnapping offense in 1973, where he had attempted to grope and kidnap a woman from a gas station near Atlanta.
As he prepared for a stint in prison, he also began the process of fighting for custody of his son, Michael Hughes. Michael was in Oklahoma, in the care of Ernest and Merle Bean, while Floyd was facing a Georgia prison bid.
In December of 1990, Floyd was transferred to El Reno Federal Prison, which was located close to Oklahoma City. From here, Floyd began the legal battle of getting Michael to be acknowledged as his son. He was granted visitation, despite the issues young Michael was exhibiting. His foster parents, the Beans, and all of Tonya's witnesses gave statements to DHS that Michael should not be associating with Franklin Floyd anymore, but a glowing review from his case manager allowed him to keep visiting with the two-year old son.
When given the option of taking a paternity test to prove his parental rights, he refused.
Multiple times, Floyd was asked questions from law enforcement about his young wife, Tonya Hughes, who had died in a mysterious hit-and-run just months beforehand.
Floyd refused to answer any questions, and would often only answer in vague statements. He told police that they had met in Chicago, and traveled through some southern states in their way to Oklahoma City. He claimed that Michael was born in Alabama in 1988, and that they had gotten married in New Orleans a year later, but offered up no concrete details.
So, up to this point, police still had no idea who the woman calling herself Tonya Tadlock Hughes was. Based off of the witness statements, they knew that there was something suspicious about her relationship to Franklin Floyd, but they had nothing concrete to go off of. Even months later, they had no evidence to move forward with her unsolved murder.
Investigators had reason to believe that after his arrest, Franklin Floyd had called up his old prison acquaintance, David Dial, to retrieve belongings of his from the trailer he had been staying at in Augusta, Georgia. To this day, we still have no idea what those belongings were.
Over the next few years, Floyd would continue to battle for custody of young Michael, who was improving under the care of Ernest and Merle Bean. He finally began to speak, and his temper tantrums were becoming less of an issue, his emotional stability not as fragile as it once was.
After accepting the terms of his child support payments, the courts ordered Floyd to give up his blood for a paternity test. He continued to refuse, but was eventually subjected to the test in July of 1992. When the results came back, they were not what Franklin Delano Floyd wanted to hear.
He was not the father of the child known as Michael Hughes. There was no paternal link to Franklin Delano Floyd, despite his insistence that he was the father of the boy. His visitation rights were immediately cancelled, his custody rights of Michael were vacated, and any child support payments that he was planning to make were cut off.
However, this would not be the end of Franklin Delano Floyd's ties to Michael Hughes.
In the Spring of 1993, it had been three years since the mysterious death of the woman calling herself Tonya Hughes. Police were still no closer to finding out who she was, let alone who was responsible for her death.
The main suspect was still her husband, Franklin Delano Floyd, who had been masquerading as deceased individuals as a fugitive since 1973. But now, twenty years after originally escaping the law, Floyd was being released from the El Reno Correctional Facility he had spent the last two-and-a-half years at.
It was a rather short prison stint, which I find so odd. You'd imagine that a career criminal, convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault who ran away as a fugitive for two decades, would get more than a first-time drug offender. But less than three years after the mysterious death of his young bride, Franklin Delano Floyd found himself a free man once again.
Floyd had his parole moved from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, which he claimed allowed him to continue working on his paternity case for Michael. He wanted to stay in the close proximity to the child he called his son, despite the courts telling him that he had no parental rights at his point.
He began to work as a repairman for the Lyrewood Pointe Apartments in Oklahoma City. With this, he found not only a place to live after being released from a halfway house, but a steady income which he planned to use in his upcoming hearings to regain custody and parental rights.
Floyd constantly attended parole meetings and met with a psychiatrist, both of whom offered up conflicting reports.
His psychiatrist found him to be a fixable case. They saw him as a damaged man who had lived a poor life, and was a result of his abusive, traumatic upbringing.
However, his parole officer had the opposite view. His name was Gary Homan, and he was a specialist for the Western District of Oklahoma. He dealt with the worst of the worst: sexual predators, killers, etc. You name it, he worked with them.
Gary Homan viewed Franklin Delano Floyd as a force of evil, who would have no redemption. He viewed him as a man without a good side, just selfish wants and desires that he didn't worry about the ramifications of.
Sadly, Gary Homan might as well have been predicting the future.
Franklin Delano Floyd planned on taking his custody bid all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who reversed the decision of the initial court to terminate his parental rights. This meant that he could begin planning a better strategy for his court case in the coming months with his lawyer, Mack Martin, and would get visitation rights to see Michael twice a month.
In July of 1994, Franklin Delano Floyd had been working at the Lyrewood Point Apartments in Oklahoma City for the better part of the past year. His employer, the apartment manager, called Floyd a "model employee," and had no complaints to levy against him.
However, this would soon change when Floyd found himself on the wrong side of the law. Again.
It was the Fourth of July, and a woman by the name of Carrie Box lived in those Lyrewood Apartments with a boyfriend of hers. They were on their way back home after visiting a nearby friend's home for the festivities.
Carrie made it home before her boyfriend, and upon entering their bedroom, came upon a startling sight. Franklin Delano Floyd, the apartment repairman, was standing nearby her dresser drawer, going through her undergarments with a knife in his hand.
When Floyd saw her, he rushed and took the younger woman to the ground, punching her in the face. She got some cuts on her arm during the process, because of the knife, and Floyd told her that her boyfriend hired him to attack her.
Of course, this excuse would fall flat when Carrie's boyfriend made it home just a moment later, and Franklin Delano Floyd bolted for the exit.
A brief chase and skirmish ensued, and it ultimately resulted in Carrie's boyfriend pinning Franklin Floyd to the ground and waiting for police to arrive. Upon his arrest, Floyd began stating that he had been framed; an excuse that just plainly made no sense.
His parole officer, Gary Homan, might as well have predicted it. When he found out about Floyd's outburst, he recalls telling the man that he was going to hang him out to dry. He told his superiors not to let Floyd be released on bail, but there was nothing they could do: using the leftover money from Tonya Hughes' life insurance policies, Franklin Delano Floyd bailed himself out for $7000.
Finding himself back in a halfway home, Franklin Floyd was deprived of the rights he had enjoyed over the past year. He lost his job as the Lyrewood Point Apartment repairman, obviously, but quickly found a new job as a painter.
At the halfway home, he was only allowed to be gone as long as he was at work. At least, that's how the system was supposed to be.
A hearing was set up for September 23rd, in which Franklin Delano Floyd would find out about the charges being levied against him for his most recent criminal outburst. He knew that if he was found guilty of any crimes, his custody battle for Michael would be lost.
So it was during this time period that Franklin Delano Floyd would begin plotting his next course of action. And, like all things involving Franklin Floyd, it was selfish, meticulous, and would ruin the lives of innocent people.
Part Three: Michael Hughes
In April of 1990, a woman by the name of Tonya Hughes was found alongside an Oklahoma City highway, just down the road from a Motel 6. She had been staying there with her family: her two-year old son, Michael, and - apparently - her suspicious, older husband named Clarence.
Police would soon learn that her name wasn't really Tonya Hughes. They wouldn't know her real name for years after this, but her murder remains unsolved. The cause of death was a hit-and-run, but the driver remains unknown to this day.
Suspicions have fallen at the feet of her husband, who police later discovered was a fugitive by the name of Franklin Delano Floyd. Floyd was a convicted child molester who had attempted to kidnap and sexually assault a woman in 1973, and been on the run with fake identities ever since.
Floyd was eventually sent to prison for his 1973 assault, but was released just a few years later, in 1993.
However, he managed to last just a little over a year before breaking into an apartment in the complex he lived and worked at. There, he rummaged through the underwear drawer of the woman that lived there, who arrived home and stumbled upon the sight. Floyd assaulted her, and was only stopped by the woman's boyfriend, who returned home moments later.
Even though he had failed a paternity test administered to him in prison, Franklin Floyd knew that any upcoming convictions could destroy his chance at gaining custody of Michael, who had been a ward of the state since the death of his mother, Tonya, four years beforehand.
This is when Franklin Delano Floyd began putting into motions a plan that would render custody a non-existent issue when it came to Michael Hughes.
In the years since the death of his mother, the mysterious woman known legally as Tonya Hughes, Michael Hughes had remained a ward of the state.
If you recall back to the first episode of this tale, I told you that in the days after Tonya's death, her husband, known then as Clarence Hughes, had put Michael into the state's care on a temporary basis. But when "Clarence Hughes" was later revealed to have been an alias for wanted fugitive Franklin Delano Floyd, his parental rights became questioned and custody of young Michael was revoked.
The foster parents that had been watching over Michael the entire time had begun to view Michael as their own child. Ernest and Merle Bean were lifelong foster parents, who had fostered over sixty kids at this point in the early-1990s. With my own bias intact, I wouldn't hesitate to call them heroes who helped better the lives of dozens of children. They're the type of humans that we all should aspire to be.
Ernest and Merle Bean had often dealt with the worst cases of child abuse, victims of parental neglect, children with born drug dependencies, etc. They had encountered behavioral issues before, but none of them seemed close to Michael Hughes as an toddler.
When two-year old Michael showed up at their doorstep, he was emotionally distraught and reeked of urine. He constantly cried and sobbed, becoming so volatile that the smallest thing could set him off. He was behind other kids of his age range, intellectually, barely able to say a word. He would constantly bang his head against the ground whenever he got angry, and seemed to be emotionally stunted from an early age.
However, as the months progressed to years, Michael began to overcome some of his personal issues. He learned how to speak, and seemed to become more emotionally stable under the care of Ernest and Merle Bean, who were planning to legally adopt Michael when the custody battle with Franklin Delano Floyd came to pass.
While in prison, Franklin Floyd failed a paternity test. However, after spending months paying child support for Michael while behind bars, Franklin viewed himself as the child's father, regardless of what a blood test proved.
Ernest and Merle Bean were terrified of Franklin Floyd, at least when it came to the well-being of Michael. They noticed that he became slightly distraught after a visit with the man, and they didn't trust him - or his intentions. After all, he was a convicted child molester who had twenty years of his life unaccounted for, and who had a recent history of abusing and assaulting others.
Throughout his time with the Bean family, Michael had begun to talk about memories of his early childhood. He couldn't remember much, but he recalled memories of a dark place where he spent long periods of time. They thought that this might allude to a small bedroom or a closet, which Franklin Floyd might have locked him in.
However, in the months before September of 1994, their fears began to intensify.
One morning they were woken up by the sound of their dog barking towards the backyard. When Ernest followed the dog on a leash, the dog led him out into the nearby woods, where he stumbled upon an abandoned campsite, which had been recently used. Even though Floyd was confined to a halfway house outside of work hours, they wouldn't put it past him to find a way to spend a night in the woods outside their home, to simply be close to Michael.
And at least one other time, Merle recalled seeing Floyd drive by their house in his pickup truck.
To the Bean family, this was an omen that something dark was approaching. In retrospect, it looks like that notion was absolutely correct.
September 12th, 1994, started out as any regular day. The kids at Indian Meridian Elementary School showed up for class, just like any Monday morning.
Franklin Delano Floyd should have been preparing for his upcoming evidentiary trial on the 23rd of that month, but he had other things on his mind. Namely, Michael Anthony Hughes.
Principal James Davis was in a meeting with someone when Floyd showed up to the campus, wearing an old, dark gray suit. He waited patiently to meet with the Principal, and moments later, produced a snub-nosed pistol from his pant pocket.
He told James Davis that he had been grieving for four years, and had lost the will to live. He told Principal Davis that if he didn't comply and help him get Michael Hughes out of class, that he would kill him for refusing to help.
I can't even imagine what kind of panic must have been stirring inside of Jim Davis. As a school official, your duty and responsibility is the well-being of students; a man with a gun is the antithesis of this. Who knows how many lives would be in jeopardy if he refused to comply?
So, without any real option, Davis went along with Franklin Floyd's mad desire. The two calmly walked to Michael's first grade classroom, and they called for the six-year old boy.
With Michael in-tow, and carefully palming the gun in his pocket, Floyd told Jim Davis to take him to the Principal's vehicle. James Davis told his secretary that they'd be right back. He led the way to his nearby vehicle, a Ford pickup truck, and sat in the driver's seat while Floyd directed him where to go.
The trio drove roughly a mile-and-a-half away, to an open field that Floyd seemed to have become familiar with. There were objects strewn about a small area, such as a sleeping bag, a cooler, and other items that led Davis to believe that Floyd had been staying there.
Franklin Floyd handcuffed Davis' arms around a nearby tree, forcing him into a squatting position. He told the Indian Meridian Principal that he'd call for help in two hours, just enough to give himself a head start.
True to his word, help would come for Davis just a little over two hours later. By that time, Franklin Delano Floyd and Michael Anthony Hughes were long gone, with the little boy never being seen again.
Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick was a twenty-plus year FBI official, who had been working for the Oklahoma City branch of the FBI since 1975. He was the branch's go-to specialist when it came to kidnapping cases, and he personally oversaw all of them.
He was the type of cop that worked almost every job in law enforcement: he had gone undercover with gangs in the 1970s, had worked alongside SWAT units, and had a reputation for closing every case that came across his desk.
Fitzpatrick was called by the police chief of Choctaw, a town just outside of Oklahoma City, just a stone's throw northeast of Tinker Air Force Base. He told him about the kidnapping of a local boy, and the identity of the kidnapper, his wannabe father figure who had a history of assault.
Fitzpatrick immediately got started on the case, trying to learn everything he could about the man known as Franklin Delano Floyd. He issued an APB for the arrest of Floyd, the young boy in his possession, and the truck he had absconded with, belonging to Principal James Davis.
The APB also included the aliases that Floyd had used in the past: including Clarence Hughes, Trenton Davis, Warren Marshall, and any other nicknames he had utilized. He also noted that Floyd was still the prime suspect in the murder investigation of his wife, Tonya Hughes, and that he was armed-and-dangerous and most likely headed out-of-state.
After gaining a working knowledge of Franklin Floyd's entire personal history, Fitzpatrick figured that he had maybe a week to get young Michael Hughes back alive. He wasn't sure what Floyd's endgame was, but he figured that it probably wouldn't result in anything good for Michael. If they wanted to get him back, they needed to try and do it as quickly as possible.
So hundreds of FBI agents and police officers in the surrounding area began to correspond, being on the look out for anything. And this is when police began to learn about the extent of Franklin Floyd's crimes over the past twenty years.
Much of the evidence police were able to unearth about Franklin Delano Floyd centered around his murdered wife, Tonya Hughes.
Fitzpatrick and associates were able to track down an old colleague of Floyd's, who had worked with him in the mid-70s. At the time, Floyd had been using the name Trenton B. Davis to work as a janitor for an Oklahoma City school district. This colleague recalled being weirded out when Floyd gave him a photo of him with a young girl, who he called his daughter.
This would later be known as the photo that Floyd - calling himself Clarence Hughes - would put on the casket of his deceased wife, Tonya.
Thankfully, the colleague had been put off by the photo, and recalls holding onto it should it ever be needed for purposes such as this. However, in the weeks before abducting Michael Hughes from his school, Floyd had returned to the home of that very same colleague and requested the photo. Thankfully, they denied and thought it even weirder, so when news broke about Floyd's abduction, they got in touch with law enforcement.
However, this photo was a revelation to Fitzpatrick and the rest of the FBI office in Oklahoma City. With this photo, they realized that Franklin Floyd had known the woman calling herself Tonya Hughes for more than just a few years. He had raised her as a daughter, eventually leaving Oklahoma City only when a babysitter accused him of wrongdoing.
They still didn't know the name of this poor woman, but they were closer to figuring out Franklin Delano Floyd's secrets.
A month would pass, when law enforcement continued to be no closer to finding Franklin Floyd or Michael Hughes.
They finally received a break when the truck belonging to Principal James Davis would be found on the 22nd of October. Up to this point, both Floyd and young Michael had fallen off the face of the planet, and this was the first big clue they had found since the two had disappeared.
The truck was discovered outside of the Wonder Bread factory, in Dallas, Texas. They found no clues inside of the car to point towards the whereabouts of Floyd or Michael, but the truck would become vital towards revealing more of Floyd's secrets at a later date.
During this time period, Agent Fitzpatrick and the FBI got in-touch with some of Floyd's prior acquaintances, such as his old prison friend, David Dial, and his old Children's Home sweetheart, Rebecca Barr. Both claimed to have had nothing to do with Floyd in years. When questioned about the identity of Floyd's deceased wife, Dial told investigators that she was the daughter of some crack addict Floyd had known years beforehand, but offered up no new details.
Fitzpatrick had spent the better part of the past month learning about Franklin Delano Floyd, and had begun to realize something about the man: he kept returning to spots he had lived at in the past, and often used the same aliases over and over again. When one failed, he seemed to drop it and pick up a prior identity, putting it on the back burner until it was cool enough to touch again.
So, with this knowledge, Fitzpatrick began enacting a plan. He began to send out noticed to cities that Floyd had lived at before: such as Louisville, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Tampa. He told them to be on the lookout for driver's license applications with IDs that Floyd had used, and flag any that popped up.
Sure enough, just a couple of weeks later, a driver's license application for Warren Marshall surfaced in Louisville, Kentucky.
Franklin Delano Floyd was found on November 10th of 1994, working as a used car salesman. He was too stupid to think up a new identity, so he simply fell back into the one that he had used from ten years beforehand.
Joe Fitzpatrick was there to personally oversee the sting, and was able to parse through the evidence they found on the spot.
In Floyd's wallet, they found three photos. The first they found was of a teenage Tonya Hughes, in a risque pose outside. The second was a baby photo of Michael, who was naked in the picture. The third was of an unknown woman with dark hair, who police wouldn't be able to identity until later on.
However, they also found an address book with current numbers and addresses for a number of individuals: namely, his older sister Dorothy, his prison acquaintance David Dial, his lifelong friend Rebecca Barr, and most unusually, a random woman.
Police would later learn that this random woman was actually the woman that Franklin Floyd had abducted and raped as a child. She had been four years old when Franklin Floyd first went to prison, in the early 1960s, but was now a grown woman, having moved on with her life. Somehow, Floyd kept tabs on her and ended up with her current address and phone number.
During questioning, Franklin Floyd refused to fully cooperate with investigators. This would become a lifelong hobby for him, dangling threads of truth in front of law enforcement so that he could play with them.
He told Fitzpatrick and other investigators that the woman calling herself Tonya was the daughter a drug-addicted prostitute from Indianapolis, named Linda Williams, whom he had dated in 1974. If that sounds familiar, it's because Floyd's very own mother, Della, was a drug-addicted prostitute who had lived in Indianapolis in the 1960s. And Williams was the last name Floyd had used when he was dating the mother of Suzanne Sevakis.
When pushed on this knowledge, Floyd told police that the woman he dated wasn't worthy of children, so when they broke up, Floyd took her little girl to give her a better life.
Police didn't buy this whatsoever. All clues pointed towards Tonya, his wife, being the same little girl he had raised as a daughter. His altruistic disguise wasn't effective, but Floyd decided to double-down on it. He told police that he had never had sex with Tonya, and that he was the only thing holding her life together. He called her a "drug abuser" and a "whore," who had gotten stolen money from the mafia... ultimately leading to her mysterious death at the hands of these unknown gangsters.
If you're wondering why this story doesn't make a lick of sense, you're not alone. And it's because that excuse was the flimsiest excuse police had ever heard.
But now, there was legitimate blood on Floyd's hands. While he hadn't had to answer for the mysterious death of Tonya, there were multiple eyewitnesses to his abduction of Michael Hughes. He was facing life-in-prison or worse, if convicted, but Floyd would take the case as high as he could, eventually challenging the American court system definition of a "parent."
Police would uncover that Franklin Delano Floyd had checked himself into Grady Memorial Hospital on September 21st, 1994, under extreme mental duress.
This was a little over a week after the abduction of Michael Hughes, and right at the end of the timetable that Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick had given himself to find the boy alive.
Floyd had told the hospital staff that his wife and son had recently died, but offered up no real details. However, they do recall that he was emotionally distraught, and kept him under psychiatric observation for eight days.
But right near the end of September, Floyd checked himself out of Grady Memorial and headed to Louisville, where he called in some old contacts to let him borrow some money. Just like that, he was ready to start a new life.
His neighbors recalled him acting odd at times, and even his fellow employees at the used car lot where he had been working for a grand total of two days said the same. He was a weird guy, that much was clear.
Police were able to uncover that prior to checking himself into Grady Memorial Hospital, on September 20th, Floyd had likely been the suspect in a carjacking in Atlanta. A woman had placed an advertisement in the classified section of the newspaper, and a man matching Floyd's description called and made an appointment to check out the vehicle. When they met up for a test drive, the man assaulted the woman and made off with the car. This happened on the day before Floyd checked himself into a mental hospital under duress.
Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick was now more sure than ever that poor Michael had been killed.
The FBI was able to get Rebecca Barr, Floyd's lifelong friend from the Georgia Baptist Children's Home, to speak to him via telephone in the hopes of figuring out what had happened to Michael.
Throughout her many conversations, the only answer that she was able to get from him was that Michael was indeed dead.
The case of the United States vs. Franklin Delano Floyd was handled by Assistant US Attorneys Mark Yancey and Edward Kumiega.
As they prepared for this high-profile trial, the two attorneys focused in on Floyd's potential parental claims, which would nullify any kidnapping charges.
Do you remember in the introduction of this series, when I told you the story of how Floyd - operating then as Brandon Cleo Williams - was able to abscond with the four children of Sandra Chapman simply because he was their stepfather? Well, similar thing here. Paternity tests had proven that Floyd was not related to Michael Hughes via blood, but he still had a custody case stemmed by him raising the boy for his first two years. Attorneys Yancey and Kumiega were worried that any charges involving kidnapping and transporting across state lines would be wiped out because Franklin Floyd had a case for being the boy's father.
These attorneys began to work with law enforcement to figure out any possibilities of what had happened to Michael. Throughout their many conversations with Floyd, the FBI were able to piece together that Michael's real name was not actually Michael Anthony Hughes, but Michael Gregory Marshall, who was born in Tampa in 1988. That is, if Floyd was to be believed.
The case against Floyd relied upon the violent abduction of Michael from his Oklahoma elementary school, but also called multiple reports of Michael's ultimate fate from many witnesses close to Floyd.
Rebecca Barr, his friend from the Children's Home, stated that in her conversations with Floyd, he recalled burying Michael in Georgia, alongside a stream or a creek of some sort.
An inmate from the prison that Floyd was stuck at testified to the fact that Floyd had told him about pushing the boy off of a bridge, and - in his words - hearing "the little bastard scream."
One alleged witness claims to have knowledge of Floyd disposing of Michael's body in a drainpipe being prepared for the Atlanta Olympic construction.
Then, you have Dorothy Leonard, Franklin Floyd's older sister. During her many conversations with Floyd over the phone, she recalls being told about Michael's final moments, which took place in a hotel room. This makes me a bit squeamish, by the way. However, apparently Floyd told his own sister that he had been taking a bath with Michael, and while the two were sitting in a tub, asked the boy if he loved him. Apparently, Michael told him no. When Floyd asked again, Michael simply repeated himself. That's apparently when Floyd told his sister about drowning the poor boy, simply because of a six-year old seeing through him.
On January 14th, 1995, the Dodge Shadow that had possibly been stolen by Franklin Floyd was found. This was the very same vehicle that had been placed in the classified ads, and stolen by a man matching Floyd's description on the day before he checked himself into Grady Memorial.
When the police brought cadaver dogs to the vehicle, they all pointed towards the trunk. The case against Franklin Floyd began to form around the idea of him snapping and murdering six-year old Michael, stealing the vehicle to move and dispose of the boy's body, and then checking himself into a mental hospital the next day once he had realized what he'd done. Perhaps this was an attempt to try and establish some kind of insanity defense, at the least.
Even though the trial would begin on March 29th of 1995, police would find some new evidence just two days later. This evidence also centered around a vehicle.
Do you remember the pickup truck, belonging to Indian Meridian Principal James Davis, that Franklin Floyd had stolen during his abduction of Michael? Well, police had uncovered it months beforehand, and it had since been sold at a discounted cost to a man in Kansas.
During his dissection of the vehicle, this man discovered a trove of photos hidden in a envelope just above the gas tank. Most of the photos centered in on Tonya - who now police had begun to know as Sharon - throughout the years. They were suggestive, and even downright pornographic at times.
Other sets of photos included prepubescent girls between ten and twelve years of age in provocative clothing and poses.
And, horrifying investigators, the final set of photos were of a young woman - in her late teens or early twenties - having been beaten horribly. She was bound, gagged, and bloodied. Police didn't know who this woman was, and she would come into play later, but they knew for a fact that she was not Floyd's wife. This was a different woman altogether.
Despite this new batch of evidence pointing towards a much more horrific version of Franklin Floyd, the US attorneys in charge of the case were not able to submit it because the trial had already begun.
On the same day that the trial began - March 29th, 1995 - police would discover bones alongside of freeway I-275 in Tampa, Florida. They wouldn't discover the identity of the victim right away, but by the time they did, Franklin Floyd's fate would already be sealed.
The trial against Franklin Floyd brought in witnesses from the lives of Sharon Marshall and Tonya Hughes. Two lives from one woman, who people remembered fondly.
Jennifer Fisher, Sharon's friend from her high school days in Atlanta, was brought in to testify about Franklin Floyd's explosive demeanor. Police also managed to track down the boy known as Greg, Sharon's boyfriend from her time in Phoenix, Arizona.
Greg Higgs, police discovered, was also the real father of Michael Gregory Marshall. He had never even known she was pregnant. During the trial, he stated that if Michael were to be found, he would happily accept custody and do his best to help the boy live a happy life. He also said that if Michael was ever found, he wanted Sharon's friend Jennifer to be his godmother, which brought the young woman to tears.
Franklin Floyd had petitioned the court for the trial to be a non-jury trial, since he accused any regional jury pool of being tainted against him. Judge Wayne E. Alley granted this request, and even granted Floyd's bizarre request to represent himself... but told him to accept a co-counsel from the federal public defender's office.
The trial lasted just two weeks, ultimately resulting in closing statements being delivered on the morning of April 10th, 1995.
Franklin Floyd was guilty of all charges. In August, he found out that he was to spend the next 52 years in prison for the crimes, ultimately assuring everyone involved that Franklin Floyd was going to die in prison.
Despite this conviction, police were still no closer to finding out what had actually happened to poor six-year old Michael. And now, with the photos of perhaps another of Floyd's victims on their hands, they had to turn their focus on finding out more about the despicable life of Franklin Delano Floyd.
However, that was soon interrupted.
Just nine days after the resolution of the trial against Franklin Floyd, the Oklahoma City offices of the FBI were bombarded by another case. That of the explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh, which resulted in 168 deaths.
Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick, who had closed every case file in his storied police career, had to unfortunately put Michael Hughes and the unknown, dark-haired woman on the back-burner.
It would be about a year until police made a break in the case, and it tied back to the bones that Tampa police had discovered in March of 1995.
Coincidentally, on the same day that Franklin Floyd's trial had begun in Oklahoma City, a construction worker had stumbled upon bones alongside Florida's I-275,in an area normally full of swampy muck. The bones belonged to a young woman, that much was clear, but police couldn't figure out how long the body had been sitting there. Because the remains had been somewhat preserved, in the mud and the water, they couldn't put an exact date on it.
The autopsy of the bones revealed that the body had been there for approximately three years, give-or-take, and two holes in the back of the skull implied two gunshots, which had undoubtedly been the cause-of-death.
The woman had been young, experts guessing between sixteen and twenty years old, and they also surmised that she had been badly beaten before her death, due to apparent facial fractures.
However, the clue that tied it all together were the items of clothing and jewelry discovered with the body. FBI officials were able to tie them to the photos of the beaten woman found in Franklin Floyd's hidden cache.
Using dental records, Tampa police were able to positively the victim as Cheryl Ann Commesso, who had gone missing in 1989.
Cheryl Ann Commesso was a troubled young woman, who had dropped out of high school and begun dancing as a stripper at just sixteen years old.
Police had done a good job of piecing together the lives of Franklin Floyd and his daughter/wife. But their time in Florida had remained largely a question mark. All they really knew was that Sharon Marshall had worked at a club there, and that their stay in Tampa was cut short by Floyd getting in trouble for insurance fraud, under the alias Warren Marshall. The inclusion of Cheryl shed a good amount of light on that time period, and what had unfolded.
It was in Louisville, Kentucky, that Sharon Marshall had nearly overdosed while sitting in her car. It was Christmas Eve, and just two years after graduating Forest Park High School, Sharon Marshall was reduced to a drug-addled mess in a Louisville parking lot.
She was taken to a hospital and revived by staff, who got in touch with the only family of hers that they could find: her father, Warren Marshall. However, while she was in the hospital, Sharon discovered that she was pregnant for the third time.
Franklin Floyd took Sharon and Michael, less than a year old, and moved to Tampa, settling them in a trailer park called the Golden Lantern.
Sharon quickly found a job working for the Mons Venus strip club. She had worked there before, in 1988, so a connection was easy.
Cheryl Ann Commesso, the woman later found in the photos and whose bones were discovered in 1995, was a dancer at the Mons Venus that went by the name "Stevie." She was apparently close with Franklin and Sharon, but not by any real choice.
You see, Franklin Floyd had sold himself to Cheryl as a hotshot producer of sorts. He had talked to many people about wanting to get his own daughter, Sharon, into porn. People generally found it creepy. Warren found himself permanently kicked out of the Mons Venus club that Sharon worked at, but it didn't stop him from trying to take advantage of others.
Cheryl Ann Commesso was a woman who was always dreaming of something more. That was perhaps why her and Sharon seemed to click: they both had aspirations of a better life, but didn't know how to go about achieving it. At least, not with perpetual deadbeat Franklin Floyd attached to them.
Cheryl drove around a flashy red Corvette, which she had gotten the year beforehand after co-signing the loan with her father. The red corvette would become her calling card; when people saw it approaching, they knew that it was Cheryl behind the wheel. So it stood at a clear contrast in the driveway of the trailer park that Warren and Sharon Marshall lived at with her infant son, Michael.
Cheryl moved in with the family, hoping that her attachment to Warren Marshall would bring about big things for her. However, just as his entire life had shown, Franklin Floyd was full of shit.
You see, Franklin Floyd, while being lazy and a perpetual liar, was also a creep. He began to think of Cheryl as his girlfriend for no real reason, other than coaxing sex out of her once or twice.
While this was happening, and Floyd began to obsess over another woman, Sharon began to recover from her suicidal bout of depression. She met a boy named Cary Strukel at the club she worked at, and began to see him. The two quickly fell in love, but Cary was constantly reminded of the craziness of her father, Warren, and how much of her personality she had to hide around him. He knew that they could never have a healthy relationship while he was still around.
Sharon was forced to dance up until her delivery date, which actually became a bit of a draw for her at the club. She became known as the pregnant dancer, which surprisingly had a cult following of patrons.
With this money coming their way, Warren Marshall was able to buy himself a boat. It was a twenty-two foot that he had parked in the trailer home driveway, and would take out on days that Sharon was working to make the payments.
On one of these days, he took out Cheryl to Lake Okeechobee in an attempt to have sex with her. Beginning to wise up to his lies, Cheryl refused. That was when Warren snapped, attacking Cheryl and punching her once in the face. She was able to escape, ultimately swimming back to shore on her own and hitchhiking home.
Cheryl decided to get revenge on the man calling himself Warren Marshall, through his daughter. She reported his daughter, Sharon, for welfare fraud. You see, Sharon was working at the strip club but not disclosing that to the government, from whom she was getting welfare checks.
Warren was spotted waiting outside of the Mons Venus, where he attempted to abduct Cheryl Ann Commesso when she arrived for work. This was broken up by some bouncers, who told Warren to get lost and escorted Cheryl inside. But their protection wouldn't last forever, and within a week, Cheryl would go missing.
Cheryl Ann Commesso was last seen by anyone in April of 1989. Her red Corvette was found abandoned a month later, at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport, and police surmised that Franklin Delano Floyd had put it there.
They reasoned, based on the photos found that they identified as Cheryl Ann Commesso, that Floyd had managed to get his hands on Cheryl, and spent hours beating and torturing the poor young woman before shooting her twice in the back of the head, and finally abandoning her body alongside I-275.
This was right around the time that Sharon stopped working at the Mons Venus, and both her and Floyd began to travel west. She abandoned her boyfriend, Cary Strukel, without even a goodbye.
The insurance fraud that "Warren Marshall" got in trouble for was due to him intentionally sinking the boat, and trying to collect the insurance money from it. When investigators figured out what had happened, that it had been sunk intentionally, he fled with Sharon and infant Michael, heading to New Orleans. There, they married under the names of Clarence Hughes and Tonya Tadlock, and continued on to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Cheryl Ann Commesso was reported missing in June of 1989, just a few weeks after her car had been recovered. She would remain missing for the next six years, until police discovered her bones in March of 1995 and linked them to her disappearance a year later.
Franklin Delano Floyd had been sitting in prison for a few years when police asked him about Cheryl Ann Commesso. He claimed to have known her, but flat-out denied any assertion that he had killed her.
In 2001, Floyd's lawyers fought against his will to declare him incompetent to stand trial. He rejected that outright, denying that he had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic and demanding to plead his own case in front of a jury.
When he finally stood trial for Cheryl Ann Commesso's murder in 2002, the trial lasted only nine days. The jury deliberated his fate for just four hours before pronouncing him guilty. Floyd exploded with anger, sticking to his story that the FBI had framed him by including the photos of Cheryl Ann Commesso in his secret stash.
Then, when his sentencing came around, he exploding at the jury again, before being given a death penalty via lethal injection.
We can argue all day long whether or not Franklin Delano Floyd was a product of his upbringing, or just a genuinely cruel man. I felt empathy for the stories of him as a child at the abusive Georgia Baptist Children's Home, and can't help but wonder what might have come of Floyd if he had been raised in a loving, nurturing environment.
But what Franklin Floyd has to show for his life isn't one of overcoming that pain and adversity, but trying to impose it upon others.
Matt Birkbeck, an award-winning journalist, wrote "A Beautiful Child," an amazing look at the case that I've tried to promote in all of these episodes about the story. Birkbeck literally wrote the book about this story, and he not only helped connect a lot of the dots on the life of Sharon Marshall, but he exposed millions to her story.
In the decade afterwards, people still wondered who, exactly, Sharon Marshall - aka "Tonya Hughes" - was.
However, police were finally able to piece that together in 2014.
Police were able to glean some details from Floyd in a conversation, and were able to track down Sandra Chapman, whose four children had been taken from her after writing a bad check in 1975. She was able to find two of those children: Allison and Amy Brandenburg, just a few days later. But her oldest daughter and youngest son were never recovered.
Using DNA testing, they were able to confirm a link between Sandi and the woman who had called herself multiple names her entire life.
Her real name was Suzanne Marie Sevakis.
While the story is a tragedy, there was at least some kind of a silver lining.
In the court decision to convict Franklin Delano Floyd for the abduction of his alleged son, Judge Alley basically interpreted to the courts what rights a so-called "parent" should and should not have. And then, in the aftermath of trying to find Michael Hughes, Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick of the FBI exposed glaring flaws in America's law enforcement protocols when it came to missing children. Fitzpatrick helped bring about changes to these flaws, which has ultimately led to the protocols we have in place, which promote cooperation and include the Amber Alert system.
Franklin Delano Floyd has refused to tell the truth about what happened to Michael Hughes in the time-span between his abduction and Floyd's capture months later. He has said, on different occasions, that he got adopted by a family out-of-the-country, or that he has been living a happy life, unaware of his real identity. But on several occasions, Floyd has reportedly told other inmates about killing the boy.
In 2015, an undercover FBI agent was able to get another one of these jailhouse confessions out of Floyd, but they believed that it offered up more evidence than ever before. The FBI agent, by the name of Scott Lobb, was told that Floyd had killed Michael with two gunshots to the back of the head. Apparently, Floyd went on to tell Special Agent Lobb that he buried Michael near the last exit between Oklahoma and Texas.
However, a search of the area in March of 2015 proved fruitless.
We cannot say how many lives Franklin Delano Floyd has ruined. He shot at a police officer in the early 1960s.
He molested a four-year old girl back in 1962. He attacked a woman and attempted to kidnap her before becoming a fugitive in 1973. He married Sandi Chapman in 1975, ultimately abandoning two of her kids to social services and making off with the other two: six-year old Suzanne Sevakis and her infant brother, Phillip Brandenburg. Phillip Brandenburg, just a year old at the time, has never been identified or found. Police believe Floyd killed the boy.
Then, Floyd raised Suzanne as his daughter for the next fifteen years. First as Suzanne Davis, then as Sharon Marshall. The poor girl never knew what it was to live life, constantly under the threat of Floyd's abuse. During their stay in Tampa, Florida, this ultimately led to Floyd becoming obsessed with another young woman, Cheryl Ann Commesso. She was killed by Floyd, and not discovered for the next six years.
And if that wasn't enough, Floyd decided to marry this girl that he had known her entire life, giving her the new name of Tonya Tadlock Hughes. She gave birth to another man's baby, Michael, in 1988, but Floyd used her as a cash-cow until her untimely demise in 1990. A murder that is still, to this day, unsolved.
After that, Floyd decided to ruin the lives of even more people. He attacked Oklahoma native Carrie Box on the fourth of July, in 1994. He allowed Ernest and Merle Bean to raise Michael as their own son, for a matter of years, before deciding that he couldn't allow the boy to live a happy life without him. He abducted the boy from his elementary school, at gunpoint, and the boy has never been found.
The murder of Suzanne Sevakis, also known as Sharon Marshall and Tonya Hughes, is still an open case. And Michael Hughes, her young son, hasn't been seen since his abduction in 1994. Paired with the 1975 disappearance of Suzanne's infant brother, Phillip Brandenburg, and the 1989 murder of Cheryl Ann Commesso, the cases form a framework that lays multiple lives at the feet of one man.
Despite the implied guilt of Franklin Delano Floyd, this story is still unresolved.