His Name Was Shawn – A Real Life Evil Twins Story

Evil Twins is a series of true life stories on the Investigation Discovery Channel that reenact true crimes that identical twins have committed.

In this post, we talk about our experience acting out the roles of a set of identical twins in the ‘Sacrificial Lamb’ episode.

Evil Twins Episode: His Name Was Shawn

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

This is the story about a little 4 year old boy. His name was Shawn.

But first, here’s a little background on how we got involved in this story.

Getting the Call To Audition for Evil Twins

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

Back in August 2013, while I was away on vacation in beautiful Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, Terri called me with an opportunity.  

This opportunity was a once-in-a-lifetime, check-it-off-your-bucket-list, type of opportunity.  

We were asked by a local production company, Sirens Media, to audition for a starring role in an episode of Investigation Discovery’s Evil Twins.

But neither of us has ever acted before in our lives.

Terri’s son has been acting in theater since he was 6 years old.

Somehow, through the grapevine, Sirens Media found us.

Of course I screamed at the top of my lungs and thought, how exciting will this be!

Turns out we nailed the audition and were offered the roles.  

Obviously, Terri and I were both so excited!  

BUT we were also somewhat apprehensive.  

Because as the name of the show implies, it involves twins who are evil.  

It’s a true-crime series of twins who commit evil acts.

Like, against-the law evil acts.

Of course that scared us.  

We in no way wanted to glorify a true crime.  

The story that we acted out is a horrific, tragic story that was heart-wrenching to learn about, let alone act it out.

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

Shooting the Evil Twins Episode

The shooting was for the duration of one week and took place at several locations in Silver Spring, Maryland.  

In order to more closely resemble the real-life twins, Gretchen Graham and Gloria Franklin, Terri and I were asked to color our hair dark.   

On the first day of shooting, we met at the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, Maryland.  

Terri and I both played waitresses.

Acting in the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring

It was so surreal to be in front of the cameras and production crew, feeling like real actors.

Terri doing her scene at the payphone on the streets of Silver Spring

But the shooting days were long and tiring.  

It’s truly not as glamorous as you might imagine.

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

But it was an experience that both of us knew would most likely never happen again in our lifetimes.

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

The Real-Life Story

The actual, real-life story happened in 1989 in Wolverine Lake, Michigan in the winter.

However, we filmed it in 90 degree temperatures.  

At times it was pretty brutal, wearing heavy coats, being blasted with smoke, pretending to be cold, when in reality we were sweating profusely.

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

The Evil Twins Cast and Crew

The above picture is Terri and me with one of the actors who played my son.  

Very professional young man.  

The below picture is Terri and me holding our little star who played Terri’s son.  

He was so much fun!

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

The picture below is most of the crew on our final day of shooting.  

Some of the most hard-working and nicest people I’ve ever come to know.

If you’re interested in watching our episode, it’s called Evil Twins: Sacrificial Lamb.  

There’s also information about the case we acted out, as well as other twin related crimes in this book, Evil Twins: Chilling True Stories of Twins, Killing and Insanity. 

His Name Was Shawn - A Real Life Evil Twins Story

So, normally I would end this post and say how much fun we had!  

Don’t get me wrong, we did have fun!  

Friendships were made in that one week of shooting that we still have today.  

We all worked extremely hard in hopes that it will be a great episode.

Bringing Awareness to Child Abuse

But my main purpose of this post wasn’t to show you how fun it is to be an actor on a nationally televised show.  

It goes so much deeper than that.  

The story that we acted out was about a set of twins whose lives went in totally different directions.

One twin’s life was pretty normal and the other twin’s life was very chaotic.

About Shawn  Graham

The chaos resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and the birth of a little boy.  

His name was Shawn.

Shawn was born into a life that nobody would want to be born into.  

His mother didn’t know how to be a mom.  

Shawn was homeless at times. 

He was neglected and was many times left unsupervised.

As a result, he acted out.  

Shawn wanted and desperately needed attention.  

To get this attention, he got a hold of lighters and lit things.  

His caretakers didn’t know how to handle him, so they would lock him in a room for long periods of time with a padlock on the outside of the door.

Shawn couldn’t get out until they let him out.

He was an abused, neglected child.

On that fateful day back in 1989 when he died, Shawn was only 4 years old.  

If Shawn hadn’t died that day, he would now be 29 years old.  

In the prime of his life.  

I’ve searched countless hours online, trying to find more information about Shawn Graham.

Are there any pictures of him?

Where was he laid to rest?  

Did they have a proper funeral for him?

Is there anything, anywhere that memorializes him?  

I want to know.

Shawn Graham was a child who deserved a better life, but never had a chance.  

I wish so badly that I could turn back the hands of time and get Shawn out of the situation that he was in.  

I’d give anything to be able to offer him a huge hug and tell him everything is going to be okay.

Other Abused Children

How many other Shawn Graham’s are there out there?  

My fear is that there are many.

I recently found statistics online about child abuse and neglect.  

Taken from a site called Childhelp, “The United States has among the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.  About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.”  

It’s a national epidemic and something that is in desperate need of more awareness.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Did you know that the month of April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month?

This site offers a downloadable resource guide, information on preventing child abuse, protecting children from the risk of abuse, and promoting healthy families.  

They also include widgets you can use on social media to show your support in promoting National Child Abuse Prevention Month.


List of National Child Abuse Prevention Partners

Information about national organizations who work to promote well-being in children, families, and communities, including contact information, is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

The following is a list of the National Child Abuse Prevention Partners:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • American Humane Association (AHA)
  • ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center
  • American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
  • Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP)
  • Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway
  • Children’s Hospital Association
  • Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
  • Circle of Parents®
  • Darkness to Light
  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  • FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based
    Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP)
  • National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds
  • (NAEYC) National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse
  • (NCCP) National Center for Children in Poverty 
  • National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS)
  • (NCA) National Children’s Alliance
  • National Child Protection Training Center
  • (CASA) National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association
  • National Exchange Club (NEC) Foundation
  • (NFPN) National Family Preservation Network 
  • National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI)
  • (NICWA) National Indian Child Welfare Association 
  • National Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood
  • (NRCHMF) National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and
  • National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC)
  • Nurse-Family Partnership
  • Parents Anonymous® Inc.
  • Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America)
  • Parents as Teachers
  • Search Institute
  • Stop It Now!

Local Frederick, Maryland Child Abuse Resources

Here are some local resources right here in Frederick, Maryland:

In Memory of Little Shawn Graham

Terri and I, along with the entire cast and crew were forever affected by our episode of Evil Twins.  

It is the only episode that involves the death of a child.  

We all cried at some point, before, during, and after the taping of the show.

It’s a terribly sad subject, but something that is real and happens every day.

Our hope is that more people will educate themselves on the signs of child abuse, the resources that are available, and the ways to stop the endless cycle that child abuse presents.

His name was Shawn.  

This post is in memory of little Shawn Graham.  

We never knew you, but we’re so sorry for what happened to you.  

And we will never forget you!

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106 thoughts on “His Name Was Shawn – A Real Life Evil Twins Story”

  1. Just watched the episode. Had no idea it was filmed in MD! Thank you for posting a tribute to sweet precious angel Shawn. what a sad sad story. Truly evil women!

  2. Wow…in a way, this is truly a sad case where God’s child was taken when it wasn’t meant to be taken. I was 11 years old when Shawn came into the world, and at 15, a freshman in high school when he soley left this world at 4. I remember seeing the crime on t.v., wishing for someone get him out of there, but again, we all were. Shawn’s mother should have better job of raising him. I would love to see any pics of him, the real Shawn, and I, too, would give him a HUGE hug. May you always be in our hearts, Shawn R.I.P.

  3. Hi, I’ve literally just watched this on CI in the UK, and I am in absolute shock that them sisters could do that to a young defenceless boy, especially the mother, it’s sickening, as I was thinking of my 4yr old son all the way through it. What I dont understand is how they had a light sentence for an indescribable crime, they should of locked them up and thrown away the key.
    By the way ladies you played the part brilliantly, as well as the little boy that played Shawn.

    R.I.P Shawn xxx

  4. Such a tough story but so glad you and your sister helped to get the story out there. Maybe somehow, someway it saved some other little Shawn.

  5. Just finished watching the evil twins episode and what a great job you two ladies did! It made me cry to find out that little Shawn’s mom would be so evil to let her flesh and blood suffer like that and just let him die. As for the family I really do hope that Gloria really didn’t want him to die and if she was innocent I feel bad she got robbed years of her life with her family. May you both RIP Shawn and Gloria!

  6. I was actually looking for information on this case while watching the episode when I came across this blog. This was a very nice post. I’m glad you used it for more than just an opportunity to give us a look into the life of Hollywood glamour. Such contrast to the people you portrayed. 🙂

  7. Love your episode your acting was great! and I willl never understand how they didnt know this child needed love and proper dicipline … even more I hate how that lil boy almost had a way out thurough his moms friend and she selfishly wouldnt let him be adopted but let him die in a fire .. poor baby no more suffering

  8. Wow just watched this episode of EVIL TWINS. My heart ached for that poor baby . Sean was only 4 years old. A little boy who never knew love. Sadly I believe a lot of the resentment and hatred for Sean was due to him being biracial. I am sorry blaming it on the fact that they were mentally challenged is no excuse. The sister Gloria was finally released . Is Gretchen still in prison? if she was able to drive a car and go pick up her sister at the shelter then she obviously knew right from wrong. She showed remorse at the trial I believe the husband should have been charged I believer he was at the root of it all He didn’t want the child there. I feel bad for Gloria’s children I’m sure they went thru HELL. In the end an innocent baby was allowed to die in the most horrific ways of dying. May God show them more mercy than they showed Sean

    • Thanks for you comment! From what we understand, they both got released from prison after only about 7 years. Gloria has since died (we’re not sure how she died) and Gretchen is still alive.

  9. No matter what the true story is, the little boy who portrayed Shawn just broke my heart. Once I figured out where the story was going, I broke down. To the point my dog was nudging my arm trying to comfort me. Now my 5 yr old son will be home from school soon and I plan on giving him the biggest hug ever.

    Even if this particular episode had false information, things like this DO happen and I pray for those children.

    • Aw! That is one thing that this story has brought awareness to – loving and cherishing our children. The actor who portrayed Shawn is absolutely adorable – we both fell in love with him 🙂

  10. I watched ID. You all did a wonderful job.no child should suffer I hope that I am able to change any child suffering in this world.that’s my prayer.thank you.I cried for the child. The abuse. God have mercy.he’s n heaven.

  11. I found your story because I am watching the episode right now. It prompted me, like you, to learn more about Shawn. I am a foster parent and unfortunately we do see things like this a lot. It is truly heartbreaking. I commend you and your sis for bringing his little life to light.

  12. Congrats on the performance, I saw the twins look very evil, true or false, its obvious that boy need it attention, love, that his mother did not have. I was very sad for the end his life had he may rip.

  13. Wow! I read all of that & that is such a well written article. Great job! I loved that & I’m now interested in more to come! I love this blog now

  14. I caught this episode last night and was immediately sucked in due to the fact that I’m a Michigander and I don’t live far from Wolverine Lake. I frequently watch ID due to my interests in crime and psychology. I have often pondered how true these re-enactments actually are. Don’t producers have to get permission from the family to air these types of shows? I’ve always been curious. Regardless, an innocent life was still taken much too soon, and for that my heart breaks.

  15. I was watching the episode of “Evil Twins” you and your sister starred in. I was surfing online to learn more background info about the Franklin twins when I found this page. It was great to hear of your experience while filming, but also learn about the tragic life of Shawn Graham. Thank you. 🙂


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