A New York couple has been accused of killing their adoptive son after taking inspiration from the 2016 film Manchester by the Sea. Heather Franklin, 33, and Ernest Franklin II, 35, of Mount Upton, New York, are charged with murdering their son, Jeffrey Franklin, 16, and burning their house down.
The event happened on February 28, just a few hours after Heather and Ernest Franklin II watched Manchester by the Sea. The dramatic film stars Casey Affleck as a Massachusetts native whose tragic past reveals that he accidentally burned down his house and killed his children in the process.
Heather is currently being held on $125,000 cash or $250,000 bond while Ernest Franklin II is on $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond. Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride spoke to the judge at the couple’s bail review on Friday about how they may have been inspired by Manchester by the Sea.
“Judge, in this particular case, the defendant and her husband, co-defendant, were at home with Jeffrey on the night of February 28th. That night, according to this 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, and within two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey’s deceased. She inexplicably left the house, driving around Chenango County and Delaware County, and doesn’t return until the fire totally engulfs the house.”
Ernest Franklin II reportedly claimed the fire was started by accident while Heather was out of the house shopping and that he had “left the dogs out.” District Attorney McBride discussed how there were no animals found in the house and Jeffrey did not have evidence of smoke inhalation or traces of soot in his mouth, trachea, or bronchi. The fire was reported March 1 at 1:15 a.m. ET.
Jeffrey, who had special needs, was “badly burned” in the fire, according to McBride. The teen was a foster child before Heather and Ernest adopted him.
“I believe in our attachments to my response to the Defendant’s Order to Show Cause, we’ve set out that there was a very big strain in the family relationship because of Jeffrey’s special needs and that this defendant was complaining on Facebook about the strain that that was putting on her,” McBride stated.
Heather allegedly left the house to shop at Price Chopper in Sidney followed by Walmart in Norwich, looking for a specific drug. The 33-year-old is pregnant, and her attorney said in court that her client is “innocent until proven guilty.”
“We will post reasonable amount of bail and she will stay in this county and she will be able to care for her child in her womb. She’s a high-risk pregnancy. She already lost one child to a miscarriage a year and a half ago. She deserves to be let free and work toward defending herself.”
Both Heather Franklin and Ernest Franklin II are being held in the Chenango County Jail as of this week.
Manchester by the Sea was a popular film in the final months of 2016 leading into the first few months of 2017. The film was a big presence in the awards race, netting major nominations and the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the Oscars. At the Oscars, which were held two days before the Franklin incident, Casey Affleck won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Lee Chandler. Manchester by the Sea director and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan also took home an Oscar, winning for Best Original Screenplay.
[Featured Image by Chenango County Sheriffs Office/AP Images]