Dairy Queen manager, Harley Branham charged with manslaughter over suicide death of Missouri teen, Kenneth Suttner. The needle that broke the camel’s back.
Harley Branham a former 21 year old Missouri, Dairy Queen manager was on Tuesday formally charged with second degree manslaughter after being accused of being directly responsible for the suicide death of a teen employee who shot themselves in the head.
Charges against Branham come after a recent Howard County Coroner’s Office inquest advised criminally arraigning the woman, citing the onslaught of verbal abuse and humiliation the victim had suffered at his bosses hands.
Appearing in court, the former Dairy Queen manager declined to enter a plea, and was released on $25, 000 bond. If convicted Branham faces up to four years jail.
Branham is scheduled to return to court May 25 for her preliminary hearing.
Matters had come to the fore after Suttner, a shy and awkward youth, who friends said had incurred unrelenting humiliation all his life, wrote several suicide notes to friends and family before shooting himself dead on the morning of December 21 outside his parent’s Glasgow home.
During the inquest into the boy’s death, Branham’s former Dairy Queen co-workers told the court that Branham repeatedly ridiculed Suttner and forced him to complete humiliating tasks, such as cleaning the floor by hand while lying on his stomach.
A former co worker told of Branham even once throwing a cheeseburger at the employee after having made it wrong, said Allison Bennett.
Branham in her defense, denied ever bullying Suttner.
‘There’s a lot of people at Dairy Queen saying I was the reason’ he killed himself, but I don’t understand why it would be that way’, she said in an earlier hearing noted the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Many witnesses testified that Kenneth Suttner, a Glasgow High School junior, had been bullied for years at school and at work.
A coroner’s jury said that they found Branham, ‘was the principal in the cause of death’.
Some meanwhile questioned whether Branham deserved being held directly culpable for the teen’s death, given the many years of torment he’d endured, with Branham’s rebuke of him, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The six-person jury also found that Dairy Queen was negligent in training their employees and that the Glasgow School District failed to prevent the bullying.
Pursuant to Branham’s indictment, the woman’s lawyer, Jeff Hilbrenner told ABC News: ‘We look forward to the opportunity to present additional evidence and reviewing the evidence that the state intends to present in court.’
Suttner’s family released a statement saying that they hope the district finally will recognize the pervasive problem of bullying and address it, and that the community would ‘work together to make change’ and that there will be no ‘negative backlash’ in the community.
Addressing the employee’s suicide death, Dairy Queen said in a statement that their Fayette, Missouri store ‘is independently owned and operated by a franchisee.’
Also posing a dilemma are claims by students and parents who told of complaining to the school administrators about Suttner being bullied, only for the issue to be ignored.
Lexie Graves, one of Suttner’s best friends, said Kenneth was picked on no matter where he was in the school building.
‘A lot of people, kids, made fun of the way — basically everything about him,” including his weight, speech impediment and the way he walked and acted,’ Graves said.
She did report it once, but gave up after nothing happened. Parents agreed, noting the school does little once bullying is reported.
Told Barbara Smith, whose own son bullied so much that she moved him out of the district, ‘Every time we went to the school to do something about the bullying, it just got worse’.
Mary Korte, a friend of the Suttners, said she and her husband had told the school board that faculty were bullying students.
‘These things were brought to the attention of the appropriate school officials, and it’s a shame it was swept under the rug’, Korte said.
Glasgow School District Superintendent Mike Reynolds admitted that bullying does occur in the district while maintaining it’s not a systematic problem. Of note, the school official declined to answer why school administrators took so little action to head off one teen boy’s continual descent into self hatred and eventually death by escape….