“Manchester by the Sea” had millions of viewers bawling over its heartbreaking storyline — and now it may even have inspired a real-life murder.
According to a prosecutor, a New York state couple copied the plotline of the Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams awards favorite when carrying out the murder of their adopted son because of the strain caused by his special needs.
Within hours of watching “Manchester” on Feb. 28, Ernest and Heather Franklin killed Jeffrey Franklin, 16, and tried to cover up the crime with a house fire, Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride said during a bail hearing, WBNG reported.
In the highly acclaimed drama written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan — spoiler alert — a Massachusetts man (played by Oscar winner Casey Affleck) struggles to cope after he accidentally sets fire to his house, killing his three children.
However, in the case of Jeffrey Franklin, McBride said an examination showed that the teenager died before the fire — and he believes the boy was deliberately killed.
Based on scientific evidence, Jeffrey did not have any smoke or soot in his mouth, trachea or bronchi, which is expected if someone died as a result of a fire. However, due to the damage to the body, the pathologist is not able to determine the cause of death.
“Within two hours of that movie playing to this defendant and her husband, Jeffrey’s deceased,” McBride said during a bail hearing Friday.
“[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,” the attorney continued. “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.”
Ernest Franklin II is currently being held on $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond, while Heather Franklin is being held on $125,000 or $250,000 bond. Both are charged with second-degree murder, arson and tampering with physical evidence, and face up to 25 years in prison.
The fire was reported around 1:15 a.m. March 1 at the Franklin’s home in the rural town of Guilford, 55 miles southeast of Syracuse, New York.