A New York couple accused of burning down their house to cover up the killing of their disabled son was inspired to commit their alleged crimes after watching the Oscar-winning film Manchester by the Sea, a New York prosecutor has charged.
Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride claimed during a bail hearing last week for Ernest and Heather Franklin that 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin, who had special needs, was killed just two hours after Ernest and Heather watched the Oscar-winning drama.
McBride also contended that an autopsy had concluded that the teen died before the fire engulfed their home in the horrific February 28 incident, according to local outlet WBNG.
Manchester by the Sea — which earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan and a Best Actor award for Casey Affleck at this year’s Academy Awards — revolves around a New Hampshire man (**spoiler alert**) stricken with grief after accidentally starting a fire that kills his three small children.
The film was also nominated for Best Picture.
“Within two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey’s deceased,” McBride said during a bail hearing Friday, WBNG reports.
“[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,” McBride explained in open court. “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.”
The prosecutor also reportedly said he may have evidence that shows that Heather Franklin never walked down the aisle of the drugstores she had claimed to have visited in search of a specific medication, during which time the fire had consumed the house.
Heather Franklin’s attorney told the court that his client is presumed “innocent until proven guilty.”
Ernest and Heather Franklin have been charged with second-degree murder, arson, and tampering with physical evidence. If convicted, the couple could face up to 25 years to life in prison.
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