Former Dairy Queen manager Harley Branham, who was charged with assault, harassment and stalking of a 17-year-old employee who died by suicide, will return to court Jan. 18 in Howard County to enter a plea or set a trial date.

Branham, who was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, was accused of contributing to the death of Kenneth Suttner.

Suttner died by suicide in 2016. Bullying at school and work is suspected to have contributed in part to his death.

Branham is accused of one felony charge of aggravated stalking as well as four misdemeanor charges of harassment and assault.

While working at Dairy Queen, Branham is accused of calling Suttner names and forcing him to do humiliating jobs like washing the floor while lying on his stomach.

Another employee testified that Branham threw a cheeseburger at Suttner after he made it incorrectly.

Branham has denied all charges. She was fired for stealing and unrelated harassment.

Howard County special prosecuting attorney April Wilson finished an investigation into Suttner’s cell phone use this week, Branham’s attorney Jeffrey Hillbrenner said.

Wilson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case against Branham is not the only pending lawsuit regarding Suttner’s death.

His mother, Angela Suttner, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Howard County School District.

The lawsuit was transferred from state to federal jurisdiction in August and back to state court in October before being transferred to Boone County in early December.

Angela Suttner alleges that the school did not do enough to prevent or remedy bullying against her son, who had mental and physical disabilities.

Supervising editor is Brendan Crowley.

  • I'm an assistant city editor. This is my junior year at MU, where I study investigative reporting and political science. Interests include local journalism, breakfast food and good books. Email with any story tips.

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