Upstate New York couple inspired by ‘Manchester by the Sea’ to kill special needs son, prosecutor says
An upstate New York couple was inspired to kill their adoptive special needs son after watching the Oscar-winning film “Manchester by the Sea,” the prosecutor leading the case said.
Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride said at a bail hearing last week that Ernest Franklin, 35, and Heather Franklin, 33, were driven to kill 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin two hours after watching the film.
The pair, who lived about 55 miles southeast of Syracuse, were arrested and charged with killing the teen and setting their home ablaze on Feb. 28.
They were booked the following day on charges of second-degree murder, arson and tampering with physical evidence.McBride claimed the couple watched the film, in which main character Lee Chandler — played by Oscar-winner Casey Affleck — accidentally burns his home down, killing his three children.
Chandler is told he can’t be prosecuted for the children’s deaths because the fire was accidental.
“She (Heather Franklin) inexplicably left the house, driving around Chenango County and Delaware County, and doesn’t return until the fire totally engulfs the house,” McBride said at the hearing, according to recently released court transcripts.He told police he was trying to chase down the family’s dogs when the fire began, but the prosecutor said there weren’t signs of animals in the home.
Meanwhile, Heather Franklin claimed she’d gone to two stores looking for a certain product while driving around from 11:30 p.m. until around 2:30 a.m., when she got back home, authorities said.
Jeffrey suffered from bowel issues as well as bladder control problems, which McBride said had put a strain on the family. Heather Franklin, he alleged, had complained about the problems on Facebook leading up to the deadly night.
McBride said an autopsy determined that Jeffrey died before the fire started.
“Because of the damage to the body by the fire, the pathologist is not able to determine the cause of death,” he said.Heather Franklin is in a high-risk pregnancy, her lawyer claimed at the hearing, asking that she be released.
“She already lost one child to a miscarriage a year and a half ago,” said the lawyer, Michael Trosset.
John Cameron, the public defender representing her husband, didn’t provide comment.
Ernest Franklin’s bail was set at $250,000 and his wife’s at $125,000. Neither had posted bail as of Wednesday.