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March 21, 2013

Ga. woman rearrested in involuntary committal case

ATLANTA — An eastern Georgia woman whom authorities say conspired with her sister to illegally have their mother sent to a psychiatric facility was rearrested in Brunswick Wednesday.

Connie Justice and her sister, Kerry Franklin, who are both in their 40s, conspired in September 2011 to have their mother, Jean Sancken, involuntarily committed to the psychiatric wing of a hospital in Albany, said Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards.

The move was retaliation for Sancken having Franklin and her boyfriend evicted from her home, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Franklin and Justice were found guilty of malicious confinement in May 2012 and Franklin was sentenced to two years in prison. Justice skipped her August sentencing hearing and had been on the run ever since, Edwards said.

After unsuccessfully trying to have Franklin and her boyfriend removed from her home, Sancken went to court and a judge ordered an eviction, Edwards said. Immediately following the hearing, Justice and Franklin went to another courtroom and had another judge issue an involuntary apprehend order, “By falsely claiming in an affidavit that their mother was acting irrationally and was an alcoholic,” Edwards said.

Georgia is one of 27 states with involuntary treatment standards that hinge on a person’s need for treatment rather than only the person’s likelihood of being a danger to self or others, according to the Arlington, Va.-based Treatment Advocacy Center — a national nonprofit that works toward reforming laws concerning psychiatric treatment, among other things.

That night, Sancken said she was in her kitchen and heard what she thought was a SWAT team outside. She opened the door to authorities telling her she needed to leave with them immediately.

“I didn’t have my glasses, I didn’t have my toothbrush I didn’t have a comb. I had nothing — nothing,” she said.

Edwards said Sancken was taken to Phoebe Putney Hospital on Sept. 30, 2011 — where she once worked. Sancken said she’d worked at the hospital’s x-ray department for nearly three decades and retired roughly five years ago to care for her own ailing mother.

“They took me in and I thought well, they’ll realize a mistake has been made,” she said.

“She was there about three days before they finally determined there was nothing wrong with her,” Edwards said.   

While Sancken was in the hospital, she and Edwards said, the sisters stole numerous personal belongings, financial documents, linens, food and mementoes left behind by her late husband.

“You have no idea how hard it’s been,” Sancken said, adding she was already on a limited income. “I was left with nothing. I mean, just like a newborn baby practically. Without the generosity of friends I would have starved to death.”    

Edwards said it was unclear Wednesday how much additional prison time Justice could face. He said Justice was out on $2,500 bond when she skipped the sentencing hearing and will likely be charged with contempt of court.

Sancken has been unable to recover many of the things that were taken, but says she still holds no animosity toward her daughters.

“I’m a mother,” she said, “I love them dearly, but I want them to get the help that they need.”


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