Two parents were charged after they allegedly murdered their 16-year-old adopted son and then tried to cover it up, according to authorities.
Ernest Franklin II, 35, and Heather Franklin, 33, allegedly started a fire on March 1 in their Upstate New York home to cover up 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin’s death. An autopsy later determined that the handicapped teen was dead before the fire, police said.
Authorities said the cause of the fire appeared to be a wood stove which was the main heating source to the residence.
"It is difficult, especially when you are on the outside looking in. Many, many people are asking themselves 'how could this ever happen?'” said Ernest Cutting Jr., the Chenango County Sheriff. “Unfortunately this child—Jeffrey—was adopted six or seven years ago. I know he was a handicapped young man. Unfortunately, circumstances came to the point where his death was caused. And they used the fire to cover that death up. And it's a terrible tragedy."
The parents also reportedly started a GoFundMe page for Jeffrey’s funeral costs and fire recovery after the teen’s death.
The fund raised $11,000.
TheGoFundMe page has since been taken down and donors will be refunded.
“It’s important to remember that the platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors will get their money back," GoFundMe said in a statement.
Officials said they aren’t disclosing any more facts about the case because they want the defendants to have a fair trial.
"Those will eventually come out in court but once again we want to be tight lipped until that day comes,” said Joe McBride, Chenango County District Attorney.
Ernest and Heather are charged with murder in the second degree, arson and tampering with physical evidence.
More charges are possibly forthcoming, according to reports.
Both Ernest and Heather pleaded not guilty and were sent to the Chenango County Jail without bail.