Parents charged in son's death arraigned on murder charges

Parents charged in son's death arraigned on murder charges

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GUILFORD, N.Y. (WBNG/AP) -- Chenango County parents charged with killing their teenage son and setting their Mount Upton home on fire to cover up the crime, were in Town of Guilford Court Wednesday morning.

Ernest Franklin II, 35, and Heather Franklin, 33, were each arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder.

The Chenango County Sheriff's Office says the pair is also charged with arson and tampering with physical evidence.

Thursday, when asked his plea by the judge, Ernest Franklin said "guilty." His public defender quickly corrected him, and changed the plea. Both Ernest and Heather pleaded "not guilty" and were sent to the Chenango County Jail without bail.

"It is difficult, especially when you are on the outside looking in. Many, many people are asking themselves 'how could this ever happen?'" said Chenango County Sheriff Ernest Cutting Jr. "Unfortunately, circumstance reached the point where his death was caused. And they used the fire to cover that death up."

A GoFundMe page was created shortly after the fire to help the parents with expenses. More than $11,000 was raised. The page has recently been taken down.

In a statement, GoFundMe said:

"It's important to remember that the platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors will get their money back. In this case, due to recent information released, GoFundMe will honor refunds to all donors."

Related: Deputies: Teen was dead before Mount Upton fire, parents charged with murder

Officials say a fire was reported around 1:15 a.m. March 1 at the family's home in the town of Guilford. The couple's son, 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin, was found dead inside. According to the Chenango County Sheriff's Office, Jeffrey was adopted about seven years ago. He was deaf and had special needs.

Sheriff Ernest Cutting says an autopsy determined the fire didn't cause the teen's death and that he was dead before the fire started.

Authorities haven't said how the boy was killed.

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