Matt Birkbeck has some well-known non-fiction publications in his pocket. Still A Beautiful Child (2004) and Finding Sharon (2018) are two of the most vulnerable pieces. Based on these very books, Netflix has added another chilling true crime documentary to its catalogue, Girl In The Picture. The docu-film deserves mention not only for the nature of the crime that took the FBI by storm but because it mirrors what a predator and his greed can amount to.
The docu-film was released in early July this year and has aggregated an IMDb rating of 7.2/10 and a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Skye Borgman of Abducted in Plain Sight fame has exhibited her flair for directing true-crime stories through this project.
The True Face of Crime
It was 1990. 20-year-old Tonya Hughes was found fatally wounded by the side of the Oklahoma City road. It seemed to be a hit-and-run case; however, the doctors swore otherwise. Past her accident, an older man, Clarence Hughes, arrived at the hospital, claiming to be her husband and father to her 2-year-old boy, Michael Anthony Hughes. Unfortunately, Tonya passed away.
Wanting to inform Tonya’s family about her daughter’s death, the authorities reached out to her mother, only to find that the name Tonya Hughes was a facade. Doubts were sparked, and questions arose about her bizarre manner of death, a much older husband, and scattered bruise marks all over her body. These compelled the police to conduct a simple DNA test. The test contradicted the man’s claim. He wasn’t Michael’s biological father, and subsequently, Michael was put under foster care.
Being denied custody, Clarence kidnapped Michael after 4 years and fled the state. Days later, the law enforcers successfully nabbed Clarence but could not find the kid. It was revealed later that the 6-year-old was murdered. A thorough investigation into the matter opened up decades-old unsolved cases and ultimately led to horrific revelations.
The man claiming to be Tonya’s husband was a federal fugitive, Franklin Delano Floyd. The worst was not over yet. As it turned out, Floyd used to be Tonya’s stepfather and had kidnapped her. During her life, Tonya had numerous identities, Sharon Marshall, as her school friends knew her, being one of those. She was held as an emotional captive by a man who used to be her father figure. Floyd sexually abused that little girl while growing up and even married her to abscond the authorities.
The entire documentary showed an abundance of frustration the FBI garnered for failing to nab Floyd in time and identifying who the victim really was. When the truth behind Tonya’s identity was finally solved and her origins discovered, the news was disclosed to the public. This incited a feeling of unanimous hatred directed towards Floyd.
A crime of this magnitude is what keeps people awake and hampers faith in humanity. The film Girl In The Picture is terrifying. It incites the feeling of helpless empathy over an innocence being robbed with years of abuse.
This is one valuable addition to your list of must-watch documentaries. It engages the audience on several levels and integrates Borgman’s propensity for genius. Additionally, it is narrated with urgency to discover more about Tonya than the perpetrator’s ideology or empathy for the victim. In a field in which few female directors have dabbled, Borgman has begun to carve out her own narration style, and she does it with ease.
Girl In The Picture is streaming now on Netflix.