Knoxville News-Sentinel, Dec. 20, 2002
By RANDY KENNER
A woman accused of failing to seek medical treatment for her dying daughter and the leader of a small religious group face a preliminary hearing this morning on aggravated child abuse and neglect charges.
The hearing for Jacqueline P. Crank and Ariel Ben Sherman before Loudon County Sessions Judge William Russell will determine whether the charges against them will go to a grand jury.
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They are accused of failing to seek medical treatment for Crank’s 15-year-old daughter Jessica even after being advised twice to do so by medical personnel.
The girl was suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and died in mid-August.
That was six months after a chiropractor allegedly told Crank, 41, and Sherman, 68, that the girl had a “serious condition” and three months after employees of a walk-in medical clinic in Lenoir City made arrangements for the her to be seen at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Sherman is the leader of a small religious group in Loudon County that Jacqueline Crank and her daughter were members of, and he has been described in court as the girl’s “spiritual father.”
“The failure to seek medical care early on did, in fact, advance the sarcoma to the point where Jessica, after much pain and suffering, died,” Gary Fox, an assistant district attorney general for Loudon County, wrote in a Dec. 12, filing.
But Crank and Sherman’s attorneys are seeking dismissal of the charges on several grounds. Gregory P. Isaacs represents Crank, while Donald A. Bosch represents Sherman.
“Ms. Crank denies the allegations contained in the warrant and looks forward to the opportunity to defend herself against these allegations,” Isaacs said Thursday.
Isaacs is seeking dismissal on a provision in Tennessee’s Aggravated Child Abuse and Neglect statute that prohibits charging parents who use prayer alone as a treatment for seriously ill children in lieu of medical treatment.
Bosch has also adopted that motion. He is asking that the charges be dismissed against Sherman contending that Sherman had no “legal or special relationship” with Jessica under Tennessee law that “would make him criminally liable for her injuries.”
He wrote in his motion that examples of a special relationship under Tennessee law would be parent-child, doctor-patient and innkeeper-guest.
“This court should dismiss the charge of aggravated child abuse and neglect against Mr. Sherman because Mr. Sherman maintained no legal, recognized duty to act on behalf of Jessica Crank,” Bosch wrote. “Mr. Sherman has no familial relationship with Jessica Crank. Mr. Sherman was under no contract obligating him to tend to Jessica Crank’s medical needs. Mr. Sherman is not responsible for the disease afflicting her. As such, he is not criminally liable for Jessica Crank’s injury.”
Fox, however, countered the dismissal motions by arguing that Crank and Sherman took Jessica to medical personnel twice, so they can’t use the prayer alone in lieu of medical or surgical treatment provision.
“The term ‘alone’ means exactly what it says,” Fox wrote, “that one may not elect both prayer and medical treatment, which is at best what occurred in our case.”
He also argued that Sherman, who allegedly listed Jacqueline Crank and her children as his family on a lease, did have a special relationship with the girl that makes him liable for her neglected medical condition and subsequent death.
According to filings and testimony, Crank did not take Jessica, who had a large growth on her shoulder, to UT Medical Center on May 6, as arranged by the Lenoir City clinic. That set off a police search, and the girl was finally located in late June.
By then the tumor was reportedly the size of a basketball.