Chenango County mom sentenced up to 11 years in prison for role in adopted son's murder
ANTHONY BORRELLI | pressconnects.com
Heather and Ernest Franklin had other options, a judge said Monday, if they were overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising an adopted 16-year-old boy with special needs.
Instead, Jeffrey Franklin was killed at his adopted parents' Chenango County home in 2017, and a fire was set to conceal evidence of the crime.
"The whole thing is disturbing," said Chenango County Court Judge Frank Revoir, before sentencing Heather Franklin to consecutive penalties adding up to 11 years in prison for her role in the homicide.
Heather Franklin pleaded guilty in April, the day before her trial was set to begin, to felony counts of first-degree manslaughter, third-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence.
The Chenango County District Attorney's Office argued Ernest and Heather Franklin hatched the plot to kill Jeffrey after watching the Oscar-winning film "Manchester by the Sea" the night of Feb. 28, 2017. The film tells the story of a man who accidentally sets a fire that kills his children. He wasn’t prosecuted.
Last week, Ernest Franklin was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison.
A jury had convicted him of felony counts of second-degree murder, third-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence.
Heather Franklin's plea agreement took into account her acceptance of responsibility for her actions surrounding the circumstances of Jeffrey's death, District Attorney Michael Ferrarese said.
Before announcing Monday's sentence, Revoir pointed out that the Franklins' crime not only took the boy's life, but it also endangered the lives of emergency responders who went to the scene of the fire at the Franklin home in Guilford.
Taking stock after both convictions in Jeffrey's death, Ferrarese on Monday described his case as heart-wrenching to even speak of.
Jeffrey had been deaf and mute, and lived with behavioral issues that created a stressful home environment for his adoptive parents, which Ferrarese said helped motivate the crime.
If Heather's case had gone to trial, Ferrarese said, testimony would have shown her mistreatment and frustration toward Jeffrey. Facebook posts also showed her hostility.
The DA said Jeffrey's life was difficult: He'd been taken out of his biological parents' home quickly, he went through various homes, and been mistreated and abused — the Franklins were supposed to protect him.
"I will forever keep a place in my heart for Jeffrey," said Ferrarese, who thanked the efforts of law enforcement and fire department officials who investigated the case and gathered the evidence.
Heather Franklin had nothing to say in court when given a chance to speak. Her defense lawyer, Michael Trosset, said she'd taken responsibility for her actions.
The judge's sentence included five years in prison for manslaughter, along with consecutive terms of up to three years for arson and evidence tampering.
When Heather Franklin gets out of prison, she'll spend an additional five years on supervised release.
In court, Ferrarese said the weight of Jeffrey's homicide would extend beyond any time behind bars: "She will have to live with that crime for the rest of her life."