Pair sentenced for son's death, arson cover-up

Ernest and Heather Franklin.

Ernest and Heather Franklin, a town of Guilford couple convicted in the 2017 death of their adopted son and attempting to cover it up by setting their home ablaze, were sentenced in Chenango County Court this week.

Heather was sentenced Monday to a maximum of 11 years in state prison, and Ernest was sentenced one week prior to 21 years to life in prison, according to acting Chenango County District Attorney Michael Ferrarese, who prosecuted both cases.

“It’s been a long road,” Ferrarese said.

The pair was indicted on charges of murder, arson and tampering with physical evidence in the March 2017 death of their adopted son Jeffrey, a 16-year-old with special needs.

A jury found Ernest Franklin guilty of all charges in March, and Heather Franklin pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, third-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence in a plea bargain secured by her defense attorney in April.

Jeffrey, who was deaf and nonverbal, suffered abuse at foster home placements before being adopted by the Franklins, Ferrarese said, but there was no indication of abuse or neglect at their hands before the murder.

Heather was 27 weeks pregnant with the couple’s first biological child at the time of the incident, Ferrarese said. She gave birth to a son soon after her April 2017 release on bail.

As for the timing of the pregnancy influencing the couple’s decision to kill Jeffrey, Ferrarese said “we’ll never know for sure.”

“I would like to thank all the law enforcement — the sheriff’s office, Chenango County Fire Investigation, New York State Police — and all the scientists and doctors involved in bringing justice for Jeffrey,” Ferrarese said.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.