Knoxville News-Sentinel, Sep. 19, 2002
By Jamie Satterfield, News-Sentinel staff writer
LOUDON – Members of a religious group who believed prayer would heal a terminally ill teenager called on God to raise the girl from the dead Wednesday.
That didn’t happen, and Jessica Lynn Crank, 15, was laid to rest in a Loudon County cemetery.
It is a debate that also will continue in the Loudon County judicial system, where Jessica’s mother, Jacqueline P. Crank, 41, and Jessica’s “spiritual father,” Ariel Ben Sherman, are charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect.
Crank and Sherman, who heads the New Life Ministries religious group of which Jessica was a member, now may face murder charges for allegedly failing to seek medical testing and treatment for Jessica after being urged to do so by personnel at a Lenoir City clinic.
Crank was arrested in late June, weeks after she took Jessica to the walk-in clinic because the teenager had a basketball-sized growth on her shoulder. Clinic personnel arranged for an emergency room physician at the University of Tennessee Medical Center to see Jessica at the Knoxville hospital, but Crank never took her daughter there.
Jessica later was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. She died early Sunday morning.
Isaacs, who represents Crank, has said Crank turned to prayer to heal Jessica, a religious freedom he contends state law specifically recognizes in the child abuse statute.
Sherman, who lives in the same house with the Crank family and several other members of the New Life group, was arrested in August, also accused of failing to heed medical advice to seek further treatment for Jessica.
Sherman led Jessica’s funeral service Wednesday, which was held at the McGill-Karnes Funeral Home in Loudon. Crank and her son were in attendance, as were several members of her church. Isaacs and Bosch, who represents Sherman, also were in the tiny chapel, along with at least two law enforcement officers involved in the criminal case pending against Crank and Sherman.
Sherman pointed out one of those officers, Loudon County Detective John Houston, calling him “Jessica’s good friend.” Sherman recalled telling Houston, “If only I had half the faith and half the courage that Jessica had.”
Sherman noted that he and his church have been condemned by some for their belief in faith healing, but he remained steadfast in his convictions.
“Jesus is a healer,” he said. “Jessica believed that, too.”
In the hours before she died, Sherman said Jessica asked him to read a passage in the Bible that details how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, even though Lazarus had been dead for four days.
Noting that it had been three days since Jessica died, Sherman said he believed Jessica “was trying to tell me something.” He then called upon a handful of church members, including Crank, to stand beside Jessica’s open casket and pray for her resurrection.
“I don’t want to offend anyone,” Sherman said repeatedly.
After a few minutes of prayer, Sherman returned to the podium and reflected that although God chose not to revive Jessica, church members’ faith should not be swayed.
“She has a greater purpose,” he said. “What a treasure her life has been to everyone she came into contact with.”
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