Two parents have been accused of murdering their son and setting their house on fire in order to cover it. According to a prosecutor, they were inspired to do so after watching the film "Manchester By the Sea."
According to WBNG, 35-year-old Ernest Franklin II and 33-year-old Heather Franklin were in Chenango County Court for a bail review on April 7. On March 28, the two had been indicted on the charges of arson, tampering with physical evidence, and the second-degree murder of their 16-year-old special needs adoptive son, Jeffrey, on Feb. 28.
An article written by The Associated Press and appearing on the New York Daily News site states that the fire was reported around 1:15 a.m. on March 1 and occurred at the Franklins' home in Guilford, New York.
Ernest told police that he was out of the house when the fire started, chasing after the family dogs. Heather said that she had been driving around from 11:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., during which time she claimed to have gone to two stores -- a Price Chopper and Walmart -- looking for a particular drug, reports WBGN. The prosecution believes it has evidence that Heather never entered the aisles where the drug is located at either location.
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An autopsy determined that although his body was badly burned, Jeffrey had been killed before the start of the fire.
During the bail review for the Franklins, Chenango Court District Attorney Joseph McBride laid out his beliefs of what occurred that night, according to the transcript of the review that was reported on by WBGN.
McBride spoke about Jeffrey's effect on the rest of the family, stating that there was "a very big strain in the family relationship because of Jeffrey's special needs and that [Heather] was complaining on Facebook about the strain that that was putting on her."
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According to McBride, on the night of the fire, Ernest and Heather had watched the movie "Manchester by the Sea." The prosecutor said that in the film, the main character's children are killed by an accidental fire. The main character is then told that one cannot be prosecuted for killing their children accidentally.
"[W]ithin two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey's deceased," McBride said.
"She is innocent until proven guilty," said Heather's attorney, according to WGBN.
McBride also stated that Ernest appeared "very calm, cool, [and] collected" when police arrived on the scene. In addition, he also pointed out that Ernest had sustained no physical injuries.
Ernest is being held on $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond, according to WBGN. Heather is being held on $125,000 cash or $250,000 bond. As of the morning of April 11, both were being held in the Chenango County Jail.
If convicted, Ernest and Heather face up to 25 years to life in prison. As of April 11, the date of their trial has not yet been set.