Homicide

'Manchester by the Sea' inspired NY parents to kill boy, prosecutor says

Ernest and Heather Franklin.

Ernest and Heather Franklin.

A mother and father from New York killed their adopted special-needs son and burned their own house down in a plot they hatched after watching the Oscar-winning movie “Manchester by the Sea,” a prosecutor claimed.

Jeffrey Franklin, 16, was found dead inside the burned home in Guilford on February 28, but officials said the boy was already dead when the fire was set, WBNG reported.

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During the bail review for 35-year-old Ernest Franklin and 33-year-old Heather Franklin, Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride explained that Jeffrey “was a handful” and mentioned one of the mom's Facebook posts about how much of a strain Jeffrey’s special needs were putting on her.

With that in mind, McBride explained to the judge what he and the police believed actually happened the night of Jeffrey’s murder.

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“That night, according to the defendant, she watched a movie called ‘Manchester by the Sea.’ And in that movie, Judge, the main character in that movie kills his children by an accidental fire and is told in the movie that you can’t be prosecuted for accidentally killing your children,” McBride explained. “Within two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey’s deceased.”

Heather Franklin left the house southeast of Syracuse that evening and drove around Chenango and Delaware counties and did not return until her home was engulfed in flames, the prosecutors said.

Ernest Franklin said that the fire started accidentally when his wife was out shopping and that he'd left their dogs outside that night, which is why they survived.

McBride told the court that the defendant was very calm when police arrived and pointed to the room where Jeffrey was lying. 

Heather Franklin is currently pregnant. “She’s a high-risk pregnancy. She already lost one child to miscarriage a year and a half ago,” her attorney, Michael Trosset, said, adding that she's innocent until proven guilty. “She deserves to be let free and work toward defending herself.”

If convicted, both of the Franklins face up to 25 years to life in prison. The couple was indicted on charges of murder, arson and tampering with physical evidence.

Bail was set at $250,000 cash for Ernest Franklin and $125,000 cash for Heather Franklin. Neither had posted bail Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.