Guilford man accused of killing adopted son in court for pre-tri - Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Guilford man accused of killing adopted son in court for pre-trial hearing

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NORWICH (WBNG) -- The father accused of killing his adopted son and then setting his Mount Upton home on fire was back in Chenango County Court on Friday.

Ernest Franklin, from the town of Guilford, and his wife Heather Franklin were both charged with arson and murder in March after police say the two conspired to kill their adoptive son Jeffrey, who had special needs. 

On Friday, four members of the Chenango County Sheriff's Office testified in a pretrial hearing for Ernest Franklin. 

Deputy Dustin Smietana was the first to arrive on scene around 1:20 a.m. on the morning of March 1. He says he was patrolling the town of Guilford area when a call came in about a structure fire at 457 County Road 8. He and his partner were only two minutes away from the fire, Smietana testified, and when he arrived on scene he turned on his body camera and approached the home. Smietana stated that he spoke with Ernest Franklin, who was standing in his yard as the double-wide trailer home burned. Smietana said he asked if anyone was in the home and Franklin indicated someone was. 

Smietana says he stayed on scene to assist fire personnel that morning. He would return to the residence on March 3 to secure the scene where he once again had a conversation with Ernest Franklin. Franklin stated to the deputy that he had come to feed animals that were left unattended after the fire, according to Smietana.

Chenango County Sheriff's Lieutenant Richard Cobb also testified Friday. He interviewed Ernest Franklin the morning of the fire and on March 21 after the investigation was determined to be a homicide. 

Chenango County Detectives John Fern and Kevin Powell also gave testimony regarding interviews they had with Ernest Franklin and search warrants that were requested during the investigation. 

The Chenango County District Attorney's office says Ernest and Heather Franklin worked together to kill their son and then set their home on fire. According to the district attorney, and autopsy revealed Jeffrey Franklin was dead before the fire was set. 

Court documents say the couple watched a movie called "Manchester by the Sea" the night of February 28, 2017. In the movie, the main character accidentally set fire to his home and causes the death of a child and is told in the movie that you can't be prosecuted for accidentally killing your children. The prosecution believes the Franklins used that movie as a guideline to execute their crime. 

Related: Disturbing new details emerge in death of Mount Upton teen

Heather Franklin has yet to have a pre-trial hearing scheduled. A judge will now determine if there is enough evidence to move forward against Ernest Franklin. 

Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride says the two will be tried separately. He told 12 News he expects the trial to be set for sometime in 2018.

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