Imagine waking up one day and discovering your true identity is linked to a serial killer. That was Philip Brandenburg's reality.
The North Carolina man—who now goes by his middle legal name, Steve—knew he had been adopted, but learning he suffered at the hands of the wicked Franklin Floyd was another story.
His kidnapper's crimes are the focus of Netflix's new documentary, Girl in the Picture, a twisted tale of lies, aliases and unimaginable actions. But before learning about Philip Brandenburg, we have to trace the story back to Sharon Marshall, born Suzanne Marie Sevakis. The young girl was kidnapped by Floyd at just 5 years old alongside her half-siblings, Philip, and Philip's biological sisters, Amy and Allison.
Floyd had been dating their mother, Sandi Chipman, while assuming the guise of Brandon Williams. While Chipman served a 30-day sentence for writing a bad check, Floyd, who had then become her husband, took the children. Allison and Amy turned up in foster care, but Philip and Suzanne were not easy to track down.
Though Philip was assumed missing, he was eventually adopted by Mary and Bob Patterson at a little more than one month old, though his true identity was never uncovered until 40+ years later.
Suzanne, on the other hand, was kept in Floyd's care. Though he raised her as his own, Suzanne—whom he later named Sharon Marshall and eventually Tonya Hughes—experienced a horrific life of lies, abuse, sexual assault and eventually death, all because of Floyd.
It took nearly 30 years after her 1990 murder for authorities to uncover her true identity. In 2019, Philip's DNA was the link that connected him to this crime and the identity of the missing child, Phillip Steven Brandenburg.
"I knew I was adopted, but it hasn’t really hit me," he told Forensic Magazine (opens in new tab) in 2019 while waiting for DNA results. "I’m on pins and needles, waiting."
Who is Philip Brandenburg?
Steve, Philip Brandenburg, is in fact Suzanne's half-brother. Despite a tumultuous childhood—one he didn't even know about until middle age—he managed to carry on a normal life as unionized job at a trucking company, per Forensics Magazine. He is also a father of three and even a grandfather.
His kidnapper, Floyd, unsurprisingly met a grim fate: In 2002, Floyd was convicted of killing Cheryl Commesso, who worked alongside his daughter when he had forced her into exotic dancing. Though Floyd had admitted to killing his daughter's son, Michael, whom she had with another man, he was not convicted for that murder, nor Suzanne's. Currently, Floyd is on death row at the Union Correctional Institution in Florida.
Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment.
The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos and honed in on astrology coverage within the Life vertical. She's partial to writing pieces about the next big TV obsession—anyone else impatiently waiting for "Conversations with Friends"—and keeping you up to date on new trends like the latest must-have from Zara.
Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets.
When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a new book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)
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