Former Fayette Dairy Queen manager Harley Branham, who was accused of harassing a teenage employee who died by suicide, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault on Friday.

Howard County Circuit Judge Hugh Craig Harvey sentenced Branham to two years of supervised probation and 30 days of house arrest during the pre-trial conference.

Branham was a manager at the Dairy Queen while 17-year-old Kenneth Suttner worked there. After Suttner's suicide in 2016, Branham was charged in connection to his death.

A coroner's inquest after Suttner's death found that both bullying by students and teachers at Glasglow High School and by Branham contributed to Suttner's death.

Angela Suttner filed a wrongful death suit against the Howard County R-1 School District after her son's suicide. In February, a Boone County Circuit Court judge denied a motion to dismiss the suit. 

Suttner's parents also filed a wrongful death suit against the Dairy Queen corporation and a company identified in court records as G.E. Inc. That suit was settled outside court for an undisclosed amount in March 2018. The Dairy Queen where Suttner worked is owned by Ryan Reid, who has a company named Gatoer Enterprises Inc., according to records held by the secretary of state. Reid and his wife, Michelle, also own Dairy Queens on Forum Boulevard and Columbia Mall. Gatoer’s business address is the same as the Dairy Queen on Forum.

Branham, accused of contributing to Suttner's death, was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter. The charge was later dropped in January 2018.

Branham was then accused of one felony charge of aggravated stalking and four misdemeanor charges of harassment and assault. 

Four of Suttner's coworkers testified that he "didn't like Branham, because she harassed him, sometimes to the point of tears," according to previous Missourian reporting. He told one co-worker that "sometimes he would want to kill himself because of (Harley)."

Co-workers also testified that Branham called Suttner "worthless" and "retarded" and ordered him to perform "humiliating acts." Branham once allegedly threw a cheeseburger at Suttner after he'd made it incorrectly and would make him lie on his stomach while washing the floor.

Branham denied all charges. She was later fired from her position at Dairy Queen for stealing and harassment unrelated to Suttner.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

  • Spring 2019 public life reporter. I am a junior studying news writing and sociology. Reach me at sarahhaselhorst@mail.missouri.edu, or 573-340-5591.

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