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.
From my book A Beautiful Child, the Investigation Discovery Channel is airing a program on Franklyn Floyd's murder of Cheryl Commeso with tie in to mystery of Sharon Marshall.
I interviewed a couple of months ago and looking forward to seeing the result. Program airs Sept. 29 at 8 pm ET.
For U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, Silence is Golden
It took several months to get to the bottom of this, but it appears that national politics doomed my appearance at the Scranton Cultural Center to discuss The Quiet Don.
That's a big and surprising statement, but let's travel down the rabbit hole.
You'll recall back in May that the Lackawanna County Library System suddenly cancelled my June 23 appearance, and that was after they had already paid me (see post below). No reason was given, at least not one that made any sense. A number of disappointed readers emailed me over the following weeks, and one group asked if I'd be willing to come speak at a synagogue, Temple Hesed. I said yes, and an August date was selected. But after some reconsideration, Temple Hesed said no.
The folks trying to organize that event were left scratching their heads. So was I.
Given that some of the characters in The Quiet Don have close ties to the Diocese of Scranton, I wasn't surprised when two appearances at local churches last winter were cancelled. After all, that same Diocese was feted over the summer at a fundraiser at Mount Airy Casino. I'm told some 700 people paid big money to sit with Diocese officials and casino owner Louis DeNaples and be entertained by event host Father Joseph Sica (who referenced in his remarks his inclusion in The Quiet Don to loud laughter). I'm not sure why they were all yucking it up. I mean, is the arrest of a Catholic priest for lying about his mob ties really that funny? (Yes, the charges were later dropped, but I can't seem to forget some of the little details, like the police finding $1,000 in cash and a gun in Fr. Sica's apartment, or that he once filed for bankruptcy listing among his debts a $150,000 loan to Mr. DeNaples bank).
And is it just me, or does the idea of a Catholic diocese raising over $1 million at a casino fundraiser cross a moral line or two?
Getting back to the synagogue, it seems they didn't want to get involved in any of this, so they told the organizers thanks, but no thanks.
That was early August.
It was only over the last couple of weeks that the reasons behind the cancellations were made known to me. And they center on the race for Congress in the 10th District, and the reelection of Rep. Tom Marino.
Marino, you recall, was once the U.S. Attorney in Scranton and Harrisburg who was forced to resign in disgrace in 2007 when it was learned that he had provided a reference for Mr. DeNaples on his application for a gaming license. Sitting U.S. Attorney's aren't supposed to be providing references for gaming applications or for people with longstanding (alleged) mob ties, but that didn't stop Marino, who was rewarded by DeNaples for his efforts with a $250,000 a year job as an "in-house" counsel (yes, this is all in the book). He then ran for Congress in 2010 and, despite his tawdry tale, won handily.
I reference the Marino mess during my speaking engagements given the similarity to the relationship between Russell Bufalino and then-U.S. Rep. Dan Flood some 40 years ago. I discussed it at length during my presentations last spring at Penn State, Marywood University and in Wilkes Barre. The 10th District includes portions of Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.
I cover Wall Street now, not politics, and didn't realize Marino was up for reelection in November. So I learned only recently that his very sensitive supporters not only took exception to the book, but to my mention of Marino during my appearances. So calls were made, and the event was cancelled. It was somewhat surprising given that Marino's foibles were discussed during the 2010 election. Resurrecting them apparently wasn't in the game plan.
As I say during my presentations, having a U.S. Congressman in your pocket is a nice pet to have.
Russell Bufalino had Dan Flood.
It's not hard to figure out who's holding the leash on Marino.
I have a lengthy piece in the September issue of Playboy Magazine. It tells the true story of a U.S. Secret Service investigation centered on former Major League pitcher Denny McLain and his business ties to the Gambino crime family in New York. It hit the newsstands on Aug. 19.
The story of Jimmy Hoffa is a tangled tale with tentacles that stretch from Cuba to Northeast Pennsylvania, Detroit to Las Vegas.
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