Been sitting on this story for a few days because let’s be honest here: it’s unconscionable to imagine that two people are even capable of such a thing.
Ernest and Heather Franklin of New York have been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence after it came to light that their 16-year-old adopted son Jeffrey did not, in fact, die due to a house fire. Authorities initially believed a wood stove was the cause of the blaze.
Shortly after the fire which destroyed the Franklins’ Mount Upton home in the early morning hours of March 1, their neighbor Dominick Gildersleeve put up a GoFundMe campaign to help out the family. “An Iraq vet, a soldier, everything that epitomizes what a hero is in this country, and he lost his everything last night in an instant,” Gildersleeve said.
That effort went on to raise nearly $11,000. The campaign is now closed.
The Franklins appeared in court last week to answer to charges that they killed their disabled son and purposely set the fire that destroyed their home, with Jeffrey’s body in it. An indictment against the couple alleges that Jeffrey was killed on February 28 and that his parents “believing that a prospective official investigation in a homicide would take place, and while acting in concert with another, did intentionally prevent the production of the body of Jeffrey R. Franklin.” Both parents are being held at the Chenango County Jail.
GoFundMe campaign organizer Dominick Gildersleeve and his wife Jaime — who have been caring for the Franklins’ cows, chickens, goats, and two dogs since the fire — are dumbfounded.
“I’m so sorry I can’t get people’s money back to them,” a crying Gildersleeve said in a telephone interview. “My family has been taken advantage of in every way possible.”
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.”
“We just wanted to be supportive and do what we could to help,” said Jaime Gildersleeve. “It’s very overwhelming right now.”