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Chenango County Man Sentenced To 21 Years To Life For Murdering Son, Setting Fire To House

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Ernest Franklin has been sentenced to 21 years to life in state prison after murdering his adopted son and setting the family's Town of Guilford home on fire to cover up the crime. That sentence was passed down Monday in Chenango County Court after a jury found Franklin guilty of the crime back in March. 

The murder of 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin was the end of what prosecutors have described as an abusive life with his adopted parents. Jeffrey was deaf and non-verbal, something Chenango County District Attorney Michael Ferrarese says Ernest and Heather Franklin were well aware of when they formally adopted him in 2012, but that he proved too much for them to handle. 

"Instead of entering a home where Jeffrey would be loved, nurtured, and protected, in his forever home, he entered a vastly different environment. One of abuse and neglect and isolation that lasted for years," says Ferrarese in a statement provided to Fox 40. 

On the night of February 28, 2017, the Franklins were watching the film "Manchester By The Sea" in their State Highway 8 home. In that film, one of the characters accidentally starts a fire that kills his child. He is never prosecuted. Ferrarese says this sparked something for the Franklins, who were trying to figure out ways of getting rid of Jeffrey. 

"They killed their son, Jeffrey, because he was difficult, tough to handle, and most importantly they were finally pregnant with their own biological child," says Ferrarese, "In short, Jeffrey was placing too much stress on their relationship so they murdered him."

Medical examiners who testified during the trial say Jeffrey was dead before fire engulfed the double-wide. Prosecutors told jurors that Ernest killed Jeffrey, then started the fire to cover up the murder, while Heather, knowing about the plan, made herself scarce while the crime was being committed. Medical examiners say burns made it impossible to determine a cause of death.

Heather admitted to her role in the crime, taking a plea deal just one day before she was to stand trial. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arson, and tampering with physical evidence. She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15th.