‘Girl in the Picture’: What Happened to Phillip Steven Brandenburg?

Netflix documentary, Girl in the Picture, focuses on the story of a woman named Tonya Hughes, who, upon her death, was found not to be who she said she was. During the course of the investigation, Hughes’ real identity of Suzanne Sevakis uncovered even more mysteries, like what happened to Phillip Steven Brandenburg, her younger half-brother. True crime fans got an answer in 2019. 

Phillip Steven Brandenburg was found in North Carolina in 2019 

In 2019 a man came forward believing he was Phillip Steven Brandenburg. He gave a DNA sample, and several months later, it was revealed that the man, who went by the name Phillip Steven Patterson was, in fact, Phillip Steven Brandenburg. 

Franklin Floyd with Suzenne Sevakis
Franklin Floyd with Suzanne Sevakis | Netflix

According to a 2019 Forensic Magazine article later reposted by the Doe Network, Brandenburg was adopted in North Carolina by a couple named Mary and Bob Patterson. The details of Patterson’s adoption were kept from him for decades, although he was made aware that he was an adoptee while he was still a teen. According to the publication, Mary Patterson only revealed her son’s birth name following her husband’s death.  

A photo of Suzanne Sevakis and her sister, Allison Brandenburg
A photo of Suzanne Sevakis and her sister, Allison Brandenburg | Netflix

The details about how Mary and Bob became the child’s adoptive parents are a bit murky. According to Forensic Magazine, Sandra Brandenburg had wanted to give the baby up for adoption. She and Mary were allegedly coworkers at some point. In other tellings of events, Floyd, despondent that the boy was not his biological child, gave him away when the elder Brandenburg was in jail on fraud charges. Floyd also relinquished rights to two of Brandburg’s three other children, although they were later located. Floyd fled with Bradenburg’s eldest child, Suzanne, renamed her Sharon Marshall and lived as her father until she was an adult. Once legally an adult, Floyd changed their names again and married Suzanne. 

Where is Phillip Steven Patterson today?

By the time Patterson learned who he was, he was already an adult. At 45, he had an established career and was the father of three children. In fact, according to Forensic Magazine, Patterson was already a grandfather when he learned of his true identity. 

His biological mother, niece, and several other family members appeared in the documentary chronicling the search for his half-sister’s identity. Patterson, however, seems to be keeping a low profile right now. Several men named Steve Patterson, the name Patterson goes by now, live in and around North Carolina. 

One mystery from ‘Girl in the Picture’ remains unsolved 

The investigation into Hughes’ death eventually uncovered her true identity as Suzanne Sevakis. It also led to Patterson learning his true identity in a roundabout way. There is still one mystery that needs to be solved. No one is 100% sure what happened to Michael Hughes. 

A photo of Michael Hughes
Michael Hughes | Netflix
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Michael was Suzanne Sevakis biological son. He was still a toddler when his mother died. Micahel was placed in foster care. While Floyd attempted to regain custody of the boy, he was found not to be the biological father. The state terminated Floyd’s rights, and Michael’s foster family planned to adopt him. 

Floyd kidnapped him from his first-grade classroom. While Floyd was eventually captured, Michael was never seen again. Floyd has given conflicting accounts about what happened to the boy. According to The Netflix documentary, Floyd said the boy was safe and raised by someone else. He refused to name who. Later, Floyd said he killed the boy the same day he abducted him. No remains have ever been found, and no one has come forward to claim they believe they are Michael. If Michael were alive today, he’d be 34 years old.