Memphis attorney April Wilson on February 1st filed charges in a Howard County suicide that she believes was the result of bullying.
Wilson, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case, filed charges against the former boss of 17-year-old Kenneth Sutter, of Glasgow, who on December 21st took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot.
The class D felony charge of involuntary manslaughter was filed against Harley Kaitlynn Branham, 21, of Fayette, a former manager at Dairy Queen in Fayette, where Sutter had worked.
Wilson indicated the charges stem from a verdict by a coroner’s jury, which was convened by Howard County Coroner Frank Flaspohler. The six-member jury held an inquest into the events leading to Suttner’s suicide, ultimately issuing a verdict that the suicide was in fact felony, involuntary manslaughter due to harassment that “occurred both at Dairy Queen and at school.”
The jury finding went on to site Branham as the principal cause of Sutter’s death, both also indicated Dairy Queen was negligent in training of employees to avoid harassment. The jury also found Glasgow High School, where Sutter was a junior, was negligent in preventing bullying.
Wilson and Flaspohler conducted the inquest, which is allowable under Missouri law but is not commonly utilized. The jury finding is not a verdict, but simply established probable cause which can be the basis for a prosecuting attorney to file charges.
The charges were brought by Wilson following more than six and a half hours of testimony by more than 20 witnesses.
The official complaint against Branham alleges the 21-year-old acted negligently by harassing the victim between the dates of September 1 through December 21, 2016, ultimately leading to his death.
The Glasgow School District has fired back against the charges that it was negligent in the case.
In an official statement, the district expressed frustration with the fact that while the jury found that the district’s staff followed state and federal mandated anti-bullying policies, the jury still found the district was negligent in preventing bullying.
“It is seemingly not enough for the District to adopt policies and procedures to prevent bullying; not enough to train staff and students on bullying prevention,” the release stated. “The District must prevent every instance of one student bullying another. With due respect to the Inquest Jury, no school district can satisfy that standard.”
Branham is scheduled to be arraigned February 14 at 9 a.m. in the Howard County Courtroom, appearing before judge Mason R. Gebhardt.