A couple indicted for allegedly killing their disabled, adoptive son and covering it up by burning their house down was inspired by the Oscar-winning movie “Manchester by the Sea,” according to the prosecutor handling their case. Jeffrey Franklin, 16, was killed within two hours of his parents Ernest and Heather Franklin watching the film, Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride argued during a bail hearing.
The Franklins were charged with second-degree murder, arson and tampering with evidence after their son Jeffrey was found dead inside their home, which had burned down on March 1. However, McBride claims a medical examination showed that the teenager died before the fire was started.
“The victim was badly burned,” McBride added during the hearing. “Because of the damage to the body by the fire, the pathologist is not able to determine the cause of death.”
He argued that the defendants had watched “Manchester by the Sea,” a film that tells the story of a man who accidentally started a fire that ultimately killed his children, on Feb. 28 — two days after the movie’s star Casey Affleck won the Oscar for best actor and director Kenneth Lonegran took home the Oscar for best original screenplay. Two hours later, Jeffrey Franklin was dead.
“Within two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey’s deceased,” McBride said.
Police arrived at the Syracuse home in the early hours of March 1, where Ernest Franklin was able to lead them to the room where his son’s body was located. The father claimed he had been out chasing down the family’s dogs at the time of the fire. Heather Franklin insisted that she had spent the hours between 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. driving around to various stores looking for a certain product. A lawyer for the mother told the court that she’s “innocent until proven guilty.”
A judge set Ernest Franklin’s bail at $250,000 cash and his wife’s at $125,000 cash. Neither has posted bail yet.