Woman Accused of Killing Son After Watching Manchester by the Sea Gives Birth to a Boy While Out on Bail
Ernest and Heather Franklin, who are awaiting trial after being accused of covering up their disabled son's murder by setting fire to their house, had a boy last week, PEOPLE confirms
The upstate New York woman accused of murdering her adopted son after watching the Oscar-winning film Manchester by the Sea has given birth while out on bail, PEOPLE confirms.
Heather Franklin, 33, of Guilford, New York, gave birth last week to a boy, her first child with her husband Ernest Franklin, 35, his lawyer, First Assistant Public Defender Zachary T. Wentworth, confirms to PEOPLE.
The birth “is bittersweet,” says a friend of the Franklins who asked to remain anonymous.
The Franklins were arrested on March 22 after autopsy results revealed their adopted special needs son, Jeffrey R. Franklin, had died before a fire on March 1 that destroyed the family’s home. They were indicted on March 24 on charges of arson and second-degree murder in connection with his death. They both pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
While Heather’s lawyer has called the case “circumstantial,” Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride alleges that the Franklins murdered their son after watching the 2016 Oscar-winning film, Manchester by the Sea, which depicts a character who is not criminally charged after his children die in an accidental fire.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
While Ernest remains in the Chenango County Correctional Facility, Heather was released on bail and was living with friends during her pregnancy, according to court records.
It is unclear whether she will return to jail.
Earlier this year, Heather talked about how thrilled she was that she and her husband of almost six years were having a baby, expressing her excitement in January on Facebook when she shared ultrasound pictures.
“Here is a pic of our little boy!!,” she wrote on January 25. “He was hiding from the camera much like his father does!”
But on March 1, Jeffrey, also known as JR, who was developmentally disabled, deaf and unable to speak, was found dead in a back bedroom after a massive fire that destroyed their home.
• For more on Jeffrey’s mysterious death, subscribe now to PEOPLEor pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
In the days following Jeffrey’s death, Heather, then 23 weeks pregnant, took to Facebook to thank family and friends for the support they showed the family.
“I know i have received a lot of messages and phone calls and appreciate them very much,” she wrote on March 3.
“However i have not checked them,” she continued. “I am not trying to ignore anyone at this point just having a very hard time coping and keeping down ‘triggers’ as much as possible for my mental state and for the safety of our unborn child.”
After holding a “celebration of life” for Jeffrey, grieving friends and family were shocked when the Franklins were arrested and charged with murdering the son they had cared for since 2011.
“We’re all just really stunned,” says friend and neighbor Dominick Gildersleeve. “It’s completely and utterly surreal to me that this I am watching this unfold,” he says. “We’re living a Forensic Files episode.”
Brenda Welsh, another friend of the Franklins, echoed Gildersleeve’s sentiments. “They are decent people,” she says. “But I don’t know what to make of what happened.
“A lot of it doesn’t add up,” she says. “That’s what puzzles me.”
Heather’s lawyer, Michael Trosset, says his client is “innocent until proven guilty” and that McBride’s allegation about Manchester by the Sea “is a leap,” according to court records.
Wentworth, tells PEOPLE, “It is important that the public realizes that the theory being advanced by the DA is just that, a theory. One meant to sway the public opinion on this case long before Mr. or Mrs. Franklin are provided a fair trial.”