A couple in New York has been charged with killing their adopted son and then trying to hide the evidence by burning the body as part of plot the district attorney says was inspired by the film Manchester By The Sea.
The body of Jeffrey Franklin, 16, was found inside his burned home on Feb. 28, WBNG reported. However, according to court documents, investigators determined the boy was dead before the fire was set.
According to the indictment, his parents, Ernest and Heather Franklin, attempted to burn the body that night.
They were arrested and charged with arson and the murder, and have since pleaded not guilty.
At a March 31 bail hearing, Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride told the judge that his office has evidence of Heather Franklin stating that she and her husband watched Manchester By The Sea a few hours before the house became engulfed in flames.
In the Oscar-winning film, the main character, played by actor Casey Affleck, accidentally sets his house on fire, killing his small children. Affleck's character is not charged with a crime in the movie.
"Within two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey's deceased," McBride said, WBNG reported, citing a transcript of the hearing.
Reached by phone Wednesday, McBride told BuzzFeed News, declined to elaborate, saying, "We’re not supposed to be trying our case in the press."
Asked why he brought up the movie during the hearing, McBride said that because the defendants asked for bail, "one of the factors is the evidence" currently available in the case.
"That’s how it came up," he said.
"The allegation is that these people are watching this movie a couple hours before the fire starts, I don’t know whether there’s any connection or not," Chenango County Public Defender John Cameron, who is representing Ernest Franklin, told BuzzFeed News. "It may be coincidence. I don’t know if it has any meaning or not."
"The DA feels that the “Manchester By The Sea” angle is a big to-do. I’m not taking it too seriously at this point," Cameron said. "It’s a terrible tragedy. The DA is doing what he feels he needs do. We’re going to our part.”
A call to Heather Franklin's attorney was not returned.
Bail was set at $250,000 for Ernest Franklin and $125,000 for his wife. As of Wednesday afternoon, neither had posted bail.
Trial is expected later this year.
Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mike Hayes at email@example.com.
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