September 15, 2002
LOUDON (WATE and AP) -- A teenager whose mother declined hospital treatment for her cancer has died at her home in Loudon County.
Jessica Crank, 15, died early Sunday morning at the home where she and her family had been living with several members of New Life Tabernacle religious group. She had been diagnosed in June with a rare form of bone cancer.
Services for Jessica will be held Wednesday at the McGill Karnes Funeral Home in Lenoir City from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Jacqueline P. Crank, 41, was charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect in July after her daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.
Crank took her daughter, who had a large growth on her shoulder, to a medical clinic. Personnel there told them to go to the emergency room at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. When the Cranks didn't arrive, the clinic called police.
Ariel Ben Sherman, who is leader of the religious group and is referred to as Jessica's "spiritual father," was also charged with child abuse.
Crank's attorney said the mother sought medical attention but then turned to prayer to heal her daughter.
Attorneys for Crank and Sherman were preparing to make an emergency appeal to the state Court of Criminal Appeals to get approval to take the girl's deposition after a lower court denied the motion in August.
The attorneys said Jessica supported her mother's decision to seek help from prayer instead of doctors.
"Jacqueline Crank is a loving mother, and her exercising of her religious freedom is recognized under Tennessee law," attorney Gregory P. Isaacs said. "That will not change."
Now that the girl has died, authorities could seek to upgrade the abuse charges against Crank and Sherman to murder.
"This isn't the time for lawyers and prosecutors," Isaacs said. "It's a time for prayer and grieving, but unfortunately there's a specter of additional charges. That's a very real issue."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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