GLASGOW, Mo. — The former manager of a central Missouri Dairy Queen will not be tried for involuntary manslaughter in the suicide of a 17-year-old employee who witnesses said killed himself because of relentless bullying.
A special prosecutor told the Howard County Court Wednesday that she would no longer try Harley Branham, of Fayette, for involuntary manslaughter after the death of Kenneth Suttner, who shot himself Dec. 21, 2016, at his home, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported . Branham is charged with aggravated stalking, two counts of third-degree assault and two counts of harassment.
Special prosecutor April Wilson didn’t immediately return a phone call Wednesday seeking an explanation of why the charge was dropped.
Branham waived Wednesday’s scheduled preliminary hearing. Her arraignment is scheduled for March 7.
She was charged after the Howard County coroner asked for an official inquest into Suttner’s death, saying he wanted to shine a spotlight on the problem of bullying. Witnesses at the inquest said Suttner was bullied for years at school and work in Fayette, about 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) east of Kansas City. They said Branham repeatedly ridiculed the teen and made him perform humiliating tasks, such as cleaning the floor by hand while lying on his stomach.
Branham testified during the inquest that she never bullied Suttner and he didn’t seem to be bothered by the jokes.
Jurors at the inquest concluded Branham “was the principal in the cause of death,” and that Dairy Queen didn’t properly train employees about harassment prevention and resolution. Jurors also found that Glasgow Public Schools, where Suttner was a junior, was “negligent in preventing bullying,” although school officials have said Suttner never reported the bullying.
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com