Murder inspired by film?

The Guardian has a bizarre story in which a New York state couple is charged with setting fire to their house and killing their 16-year old son who had unspecified mental and physical disabilities. Prosecutors allege that the couple did this right after seeing the film Manchester by the Sea starring Casey Affleck as a man who late one night accidentally sets fire to his own home that kills his three children after he went out shopping.

Chenango County district attorney Joseph McBride said during a bail hearing for Ernest and Heather Franklin last week that Jeffrey Franklin, 16, was killed within two hours of the couple watching the film on 28 February, two days after the movie won Academy awards for best actor and best original screenplay. McBride said an examination showed the teen died before the fire.

The father told police he was away from the house chasing down the family’s dogs when the fire started, officials said. Meanwhile, Heather Franklin, 33, claimed to have gone to two stores seeking a certain product while driving around from 11.30pm until about 2.30am, when she returned home, authorities said.

An autopsy determined that Jeffrey Franklin was already dead by the time the fire started, McBride said.

“The victim was badly burned,” McBride said during the hearing. “Because of the damage to the body by the fire, the pathologist is not able to determine the cause of death.”

Although Affleck’s character’s life changes dramatically as a result of this tragedy, he is not prosecuted for the act. It is suggested that since he lives in a small town where everyone knows him, they assume that he is not the kind of person who would deliberately kill his own children.

Affleck won this year’s Academy Award for best actor and the film’s director got the award for best screenplay. I saw the film and was not impressed. It was neither good enough nor bad enough for me to bother to write a review for this blog. It seemed kind of ordinary and dragged. I could not imagine that anyone would see it as a blueprint for committing murder, assuming that the allegations are true.

Given that many films and TV shows show fairly ingenious ways of committing murders, I wonder how many people are inspired by them to carry out similar crimes in real life.


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