NORWICH, N.Y. — A woman admitted Tuesday that she worked with her husband to kill their adopted son and burn down their central New York home to cover it up.
Heather Franklin, 35, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and arson on the eve of her bench trial and is expected to be sentenced to at least seven years in prison on June 7, according to acting Chenango County District Attorney Michael Ferrarese.
A jury convicted 37-year-old Ernest Franklin of murder and arson last month after only a few hours of deliberation. He faces 25 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced in May.
They were charged in the February 2017 death of 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin, who was deaf and had behavior issues. Prosecutors say they were inspired by the movie “Manchester by the Sea,” where a father accidentally starts a fire that kills his children but isn’t prosecuted.
Heather Franklin was pregnant with the couple’s first biological child at the time of Jeffrey’s death.
The fire destroyed their home in Guilford, 55 miles (88 kilometers) southeast of Syracuse. Prosecutors allege the fire was set sometime after midnight in a wood stove, with the stove door left open. Jeffrey Franklin was found dead on his bed. Prosecutors argued he was killed before the fire started because there was no smoke or soot in his lungs.
Ernest Franklin’s lawyer disputed the conclusions in autopsy reports, which didn’t specify a cause of death.
As the fire raged, the couple were away from home. Ernest Franklin told police he was chasing down his dogs. Heather Franklin said she was driving around for nearly three hours shopping for medicine.