With horrific crimes such as kidnapping, child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault being a massive part of the tale, Netflix’s ‘Girl in the Picture’ can only be described as heartbreaking. That’s because it delves deep into not just the tragic life and death of Sharon Marshall (aka Tonya Hughes or Suzanne Sevakis) but also the disappearance of her son Michael and the murder of Cheryl Commesso. So now, if you wish to learn more about the latter in particular, including details of her passing, the ensuing investigations, as well as the aftermath of it all, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Cheryl Commesso Die?
At the age of 18, Cheryl Ann Commesso was an ambitious young woman with dreams of contributing to the entertainment industry as a model for Playboy, as per the documentary. The stunning Italian was actually a beauty pageant winner before she chose to become an exotic dancer at the Mons Venus strip club because she saw it as a stepping stone in her career. However, this decision is what ultimately inadvertently caused her to lose her life — she’d found herself getting involved with the wrong people despite her best intentions, leading to her disappearance in early April 1989.
There was an extensive search effort for Cheryl, but it was sadly only around six years later that a landscaper found her skeletal remains alongside Interstate 275 in Pinellas County, Florida. She was actually listed as “Jane Doe I-275” owing to the lack of immediately identifiable evidence, that is, until 1996 — her clothes, breast implants, and jewelry played a crucial role here. As for the high school dropout’s cause of death, her autopsy revealed she’d sustained a skull fracture as a result of being beaten, yet she died from two gunshot wounds directly to the back of her head.
Who Killed Cheryl Commesso?
Already convicted rapist, robber, and fugitive Franklin Delano Floyd (aka Warren Judson Marshall or Clarence Marcus Hughes) was the one responsible for Cheryl’s brutal homicide. She knew him as the father of co-worker/friend Sharon Marshall, but the Netflix documentary suggests he was obsessed with her to such an extent that he even took advantage of her dreams to film her naked. There was allegedly a video he’d recorded of a topless Sharon and Cheryl on the beach under the pretense of sending it to Playboy later, only to seemingly utilize it for his own pleasure.
One of the last times Cheryl was reportedly seen alive was while engaged in a heated argument with Franklin, or Warren as was his alias back then, right outside Mons Venus. He’d not just been physically abusive towards her in the past but had also threatened to kill her during their altercation, according to fellow exotic dancer Heather Lane in the Netflix original. The teen had then purportedly returned home before leaving to spend the night at a friend’s — believed to be Sharon — which is why the “father-daughter” duo were both considered persons of interest from the get-go.
As if that’s not enough, Sharon and Franklin fled from Florida to Oklahoma within months of Cheryl’s vanishing, only stopping in the middle to tie the knot and change their identities for good. In 1995, though, things turned around as the truck stolen by Franklin during the commission of Michael Hughes’ abduction was recovered, yielding an envelope with 97 extremely explicit photographs. These images included some of Sharon as a child as well as Cheryl in various stages of being disrobed and hurt, with the background clearly showing furniture/personal items belonging to Franklin.
Therefore, since it was obvious these photos were Franklin’s, which eventually also helped positively identify Cheryl as the clothing and jewelry were similar, he was charged with her murder. There was even the fact the Marshalls’ trailer, their home in Florida, was soon burned to the ground in what is believed to be intentional arson to ensure no other evidence could be found.
A judge had initially ruled that the offender was mentally incompetent to stand trial, yet they reversed their decision just a few months later due to further medical evaluations. Franklin was thus ordered to face court, where he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Read More: Where is Franklin Floyd Now?