It's been ten years since the publication of A Beautiful Child and the one enduring question that had yet to be answered is "who was Sharon Marshall?"
There are thousands of readers around the world who've asked me that question, while many at organizations such as the Doe Network have tried to conduct their own searches. Readers sent names of missing children wto me, and I forwarded them to either the National Center for Missing Children in D.C. or Joe Fitzpatrick, the retired FBI agent who lead the investigation into the Michael Hughes kidnapping. While we had Sharon's DNA sample, nothing matched.
On Wednesday, Oct. 1, I received a call from Joe informing me that Sharon had finally been positively identified. The details were sketchy, but he gave me the name. I then spoke to her family today (Friday). The news was true. I can't share all the details, but here's what I can say....
Her name is Suzanne Marie Sevakis and she was from North Carolina.
For those who read the book, you'll recall Floyd fled Florida in 1973 after violating his parole. He ended up in North Carolina a year later using another alias and met a recently divorced woman with four children - three young daughters and infant son. Floyd and the woman later married, and in 1975 the woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail for a minor crime. When she was released Floyd was gone and so where her children. She found two daughters at a local social services agency, where Floyd had taken them. The mother went to the local police and FBI and tried to file kidnapping charges but they declined to investigate saying that since Floyd was their stepfather he apparently had a right to take the children.
Three months later, Floyd and Suzanne, then six years old, were in Oklahoma City. Her little brother was never found. The mother and her family, including her parents, brother and sister-in-law, never gave up the search. Alas, there wasn't much to go on.
Earlier this year the FBI interviewed Floyd in prison in Florida and somehow gleaned the info about the woman. They visited with her in June, showed her the photos of Floyd and Suzanne (her sitting on his lap). The woman immediately identified him as her husband and Sharon as her daughter. The agents took a DNA sample and four weeks later (in July) visited with the mother again to inform her the test was a positive match.
The young woman we knew as Sharon Marshall was indeed Suzanne.
The FBI then shared with her some details of Suzanne's sad fate, but recommended she read A Beautiful Child. The woman and her surviving children and family all read the book. Needless to say they are devastated. The agents also told the family not to discuss the case given they were also looking into the disappearance of Suzanne's son Michael.
Floyd apparently was also willing to give some information about Michael but sadly, he admitted to killing Michael and, I'm told, the FBI was resigned to believe him.
The agents called the family this week with the news that Michael was likely dead. They have an idea of the location of his remains and plan to search the area.
Since the authorities in North Carolina didn't take a missing person report, Suzanne was never listed in any missing persons database, which is why it has been impossible to this point to find her. Suzanne's story was heartbreaking and, judging by reader responses, has touched them deeply, which is why many who have read the book and followed this case have kept it alive these years with their sleuthing, web postings and discussions. And that's why law enforcement remained involved for so long, with the incredible work of the FBI that brought it to a close. Others who had always been involved in the search include Gerry Nance of the NCMEC (since retired), Ed Kumiega, Asst. U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma City, Bob Schock and Mark DeSearo of the St. Petersburg, Fla Police Dept and of course, Joe Fitzpatrick.
Joe retired from the FBI in the late 1990s but since our initial meeting fishing amidst the snakes in OKC in 2003, he and I have remained in steady contact. He funneled suggestions from readers to FBI officials, helped facilitate with Gerry Nance a number of DNA tests, and remained an integral part of the search for Sharon. There were some DNA tests where we had our hopes up, only to be eventually dashed. You'll recall Joe had resolved every one of his cases...except for one.
Now there are none.
In addition, our deep thanks and appreciation go to the FBI in Oklahoma City. There are other details I can't share yet but take my word they did amazing work.
Suzanne's family is still digesting all of this and will need some time. In addition, there may be a meeting with Suzanne's surviving daughter (whom you'll recall she gave birth to in New Orleans in 1989).
I'm in contact with the daughter, a beautiful college grad, who's expressed an interest in meeting her biological family. That may now happen sooner than later.
And finally, we can now put Suzanne's real name on her tombstone at the Park Grove Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Suzanne Marie Sevakis.
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