Mother, religious leader convicted of neglect in teen's death

Mother, religious leader convicted of neglect in Loudon County teen's death

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Jacqueline Crank and Ariel Ben Sherman Jacqueline Crank and Ariel Ben Sherman

LOUDON (WATE) - The religious leader and the mother of a Loudon County teen who died from cancer were found guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor child neglect. However, they won't serve time in jail.

Ariel Ben Sherman and Jacqueline Crank were sentenced to 11 months and 29 days of unsupervised probation. The verdict was handed down without explanation from the judge. 

Jacqueline Crank's daughter, Jessica, 15, died from bone cancer in 2002 while they were living with Sherman. The mother and daughter were members of Sherman's Universal Life Church.

Crank and Sherman relied on spiritual healing for a tumor the size of a basketball on Jessica's shoulder, but they were charged with child neglect when she died.

The charges were later reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.

"It's significant to note that this case started out with one of Tennessee's most serious felonies, and we were able to have it reduced to a misdemeanor in sessions court," said Crank's attorney, Greg Isaacs.

"The elephant in the room has always been the constitutional issues and whether or not in Tennessee, the religious exemption is a constitutional statute," said Assistant District Attorney Frank Harvey.

In 2007, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals overturned a ruling that dismissed indictments against Crank and Sherman. That sent the case back to Loudon County Criminal Court.

The case continued despite an attempt to have it dismissed in January 2009. At that time, Crank admitted in court she initially took her daughter to a nurse practitioner at least twice and was told she needed more medical attention.

The defense said Tuesday they will file a notice of appeal this week.

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