A couple in upstate New York was allegedly inspired by the movie Manchester by the Sea to kill their mentally and physically disabled son. The couple adopted the boy five years ago.

It is Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride who elaborated the Manchester by the Sea case connection. He claims that Ernest and Heather Franklin, who were arrested on suspicion of murder, had seen the Oscar-winning movie and have used it as inspiration in trying to cover the murder of their 16-year-old son, Jeffrey.

The Franklins were arrested on March 22. Two days later, they were charged with second degree murder, to which they both pleaded not guilty.

What looked like a tragic fire accident at the family’s home in Guilford, New York, turned out to look not so much like an accident. The autopsy of the boy whose dead body was found after the fire had been put out, revealed that he actually did not die in the fire, but before.


The Franklin family: Heather, Ernest and their adopted son, Jeffrey.
Credit: Heather Franklin/Facebook


Conversations that Heather Franklin had with a friend of Facebook gave the prosecution enough data to believe the family had the motive to get rid of Jeffrey. In the conversations, the 33-year-old mother was confessing to her friend that she had been “struggling with jr” in the past weeks, as he was peeing in his room. “For about the past 2 or 3 weeks. Almost nightly. Last episode of this was last summer. So went a few months with nothing…now he started it again”, she was explaining to the friend. She continued: “His room smells so bad! Every day it’s the same thing, cleaning pee…it’s crazy.”

She went on saying that she is getting frustrated having to clean the boy’s room every day and that she feels punished. “I so badly want out”, she added.

Heather, currently pregnant, has been out on bail, while her husband, Ernest, 35, is still in jail. They are both awaiting trial.

As for the Manchester by the Sea case connection, their lawyers state it is merely a theory. Ernest’s lawyer says the theory was advanced in the public’s eyes “to sway the public opinion”, before his client gets a fair trial. Heather’s lawyer called it “a leap” adding that Heather is “innocent until proven guilty”.

Manchester by the Sea tells the story of the aftermath that two parents have to deal with after their children die in a housefire. The man, Lee Chandler, portrayed by Casey Affleck, bears the guilt for the deaths, as his negligence led to the tragedy. He escapes trial, though, as the community feels for him and what’s left of his home and family and the case is not criminally pursued.


Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), at the police station, after his children died in the house fire.
Caption: Manchester by the Sea


Manchester by the Sea was awarded two Oscars and a Golden Globe.