A New York State district attorney has leveled disturbing allegations against a couple accused of killing their adopted teenage son.
Ernest Franklin II, 35, and Heather Franklin, 33, allegedly started a fire in their upstate New York home to cover up the death of 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin last month.
It was all part of a plan the couple hatched in the hours after watching the film Manchester by the Sea with Jeffrey on February 28, according to Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride.
"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," McBride said, according to transcripts obtained by WBNG.
McBride said Heather Franklin, who is pregnant with the couple's child, "inexplicably left the house" and drove around until a fire intentionally set by her husband, engulfed their home with Jeffrey's body inside.
Ernest and Heather are charged with murder in the second degree, arson and tampering with physical evidence.
"[Ernest] claims that a fire was started at his house accidentally when his wife happened to be shopping and he happened to leave the dogs out. There were no animals found in the house. No one else was left in the house, and the defendant, with all due respect, was not injured in any way trying to save the alleged — the victim in this particular case," McBride said.
McBride said examinations of Jeffrey's body found that he'd inhaled no smoke, indicating he died prior to the fire. He suggested the couple killed Jeffrey because of the "very big strain" his special needs were putting on the family.
"The evidence before the court and the evidence in this matter shows that Jeffrey was a handful, that he had bowel issues and he had urine control issues," McBride said.
Both Ernest and Heather Franklin have pleaded not guilty. McBride's statements came Friday at a bail review hearing. Ernest Franklin II is being held on $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond while his wife is being held on $125,000 or $250,000 bond.
Heather Franklin's attorney said his 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," the attorney said.