For nearly two years I met with William "Big Billy" D'Elia, the former head of the Bufalino Crime Family, for my next book
THE LIFE WE CHOSE: WILLIAM "BIG BILLY" D'ELIA AND THE LAST SECRETS OF AMERICA'S MOST POWERFUL CRIME FAMILY.
It will be published next spring/summer 2023 by William Morrow/Harper Collins.
Mauro DiPreta is the editor, and the book was completed in May.
Billy spent nearly 30 years at the side of Russell Bufalino, who was arguably the most powerful gangster of the 20th Century.
Bufalino considered Billy his son, and their story is remarkable.
This is Billy and I earlier this year at the Pennsylvania home of the Godfather himself, Russell Bufalino. More to come.
Steve Patterson (center) with his uncle Jim Chipman (right) and grandfather Chip Chipman (left).
With the massive success of Girl in the Picture (still the #1 movie in the world on Netflix) I’ve received what seems like a million questions from viewers around the world. Many are about Franklin Floyd and if he's the biological father of any of Sharon/Suzanne's children. He's not.
I've also heard from viewers as well as readers of A Beautiful Child and Finding Sharon asking about the mysterious “baby Philip,” the infant supposedly given away by Sandra Chipman Brandenburg (Sharon/Suzanne’s mother) back in the 1970s.
We tell the story of Philip in the final episode of the five-part podcast that accompanies the film on Netflix's "You Can't Make This Up."
But here's some more detail. It was really just a whisper of a story, one that sort of floated out there for a while for years. It went like this.
Sandra was living in North Carolina in the spring of 1974 when she met “Brandon Cleo Williams” (a.k.a. Franklyn Delano Floyd). Her three small daughters had just been removed from her home, but she was pregnant and gave birth to a boy, Philip. Some people heard the story, most didn’t. And no one knew if it was true. FBI agents Scott Lobb and Nate Furr didn’t believe it after interviewing Floyd in 2014. Floyd denied it, so they dismissed it.
Allison Sevakis, Suzanne’s sister, told me in 2017 she did remember an infant boy, and that his name may have been Philip. She was only four years old at the time, so there wasn’t much of a memory. (Allison tells her story about the baby, her mother Sandra and what she remembers about Suzanne’s abduction in Finding Sharon).
Baby Philip remained a mystery, a name that popped up over the years every so often, mostly for conversation.
But on March 7, 2019, I received a message via Facebook.
Hello, I have a question for you. I think I may have been in one of your books. My dad died last Sunday and my adopted mother told me my real last name last night. This all sounds strange. I just need some answers and I think you may be able to help me.
It was from a Steve Patterson, and he said he believed he was the long, lost baby Philip and had so many questions.
After hearing from Steve, I reached out to Scott Lobb in Oklahoma City. I told him about Steve’s message and asked if he could facilitate a DNA test. Lobb never bought into the story of the missing infant, but to his credit he said sure. It would take months to get a result, so during that time I learned a little bit more from Steve.
He said he was born, raised and still lived in North Carolina. His father had died in early March 2019 and his mother, Mary, took him aside to show him some documents. His real name, she told him, was Philip Brandenburg.
Mary explained that years earlier she had met Sandi Brandenburg. They had lived in the same county in North Carolina and had been in the hospital together. Mary had just lost another pregnancy and was distraught, while Sandra, who couldn’t care for the three daughters she already had, was pregnant again with a fourth child. Several weeks had passed when Sandi suddenly showed up at Mary's door with a baby boy in her arms. She explained that she was leaving town with her new husband and three daughters (she regained custody) but she couldn’t take care of an infant. Mary recalls seeing Floyd lurking in the distance watching as Sandi gave Philip to her and left town, never to be seen again.
Mary changed his name to Steven and she raised him with her husband as their own. Steve said he’s had a good life, and still does, but it was turned upside down after his father died. He said he needed to know for sure if he was, in fact, Sandi’s biological son.
It would take nearly a year but in February 2020 Steve called me to say the DNA result was in: He was indeed Sandi’s son, and Suzanne’s little brother.
I met Steve last year in Virginia while filming Girl in the Picture, and I liked him a lot. Quiet spoken, thoughtful and down to earth, he was still trying to process the entire story. By then he had already connected on the phone with his uncle Jim Chipman, Sandi’s brother, and was planning to travel to Florida to meet Jim and Jim’s father Chip Chipman – Steve’s grandfather.
The visit went so well that Steve sent me a photo (above).
Steve has also reached out to Suzanne’s biological daughter Megan – his niece – and her mother Mary and they remain in contact.
Connecting different family members who didn’t know they existed has been among the most rewarding parts of this story. Aside from Steve forging new relationships with the Chipman’s, Megan remains close with her grandfather Cliff Sevakis and his wife Jen, who flew in from the west coast to attend her wedding in November. It was quite a sight to see Cliff and Megan dance together, much like it was to see the photo of a smiling Steve hanging with his uncle and grandfather. He looked like he
finally found some answers, and some peace.
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