A former Dairy Queen manager in Missouri accused of driving a teenage employee to suicide with her bullying now faces additional charges in the boy’s death, PEOPLE confirms.
Harley Branham, 22, of Fayette, Missouri, was arrested on Jan. 31 after a jury in a coroner’s inquest found her to be “the principal” cause of 17-year-old Kenneth “Kenny” Suttner’s suicide.
The jurors concluded Suttner had faced bullying and harassment both at the Fayette Dairy Queen, while Branham was a manager there, and at his school.
Branham allegedly forced Suttner to hand-clean the floor of the restaurant, called him an “a——” and threw food at him if she didn’t like the way he prepared it, court records state, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.
On Feb. 2, special prosecutor April Wilson charged Branham with second-degree involuntary manslaughter, a felony, in connection with Suttner’s death, according to court records obtained by PEOPLE. (Branham was fired from DQ for unrelated reasons, according to the Columbia Missourian, though it’s unclear when.)
On Monday, Wilson filed additional criminal counts against Branham, the court records show. She is now also charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated stalking, two counts of third-degree assault and two counts of harassment.
She has not yet entered a plea to her charges. Calls for comment to the special prosecutor and Branham’s attorney were not immediately returned on Wednesday.
The amended complaint against her alleges that Branham harassed and repeatedly called Suttner, causing him “emotional distress,” before he fatally shot himself in the head outside his family’s home in Glasgow, Missouri, in December.
The initial charge came after a coroner’s inquest, which is investigative and not prosecutorial and is a separate process from standard police proceedings. An inquest involves jurors and testimony, and its findings can affect a law enforcement investigation, but it does not have the same authority as a criminal trial.
In January, former co-workers testified at the coroner’s inquest that Branham forced Suttner to perform tasks others did not have to, including cleaning the floor by hand while lying on his stomach, the Daily Tribune reported.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
A Dairy Queen employee who worked with Suttner testified that Branham threw a cheeseburger at him because she claimed he made it incorrectly.
During her testimony at the inquest in January, Branham denied bullying Suttner or making him do anything demeaning, according to the Daily Tribune. Any insults, she testified, were made in jest and he took it in stride.
Branham did admit that she called Suttner an “a–” at least once but claimed it was intended to be playful, according to the Missourian.
While on the stand, she said, “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,” the Daily Tribune reported.
The School District Responds
Away from work, Suttner also faced extensive harassment as a student: A former classmate testified that she saw him tormented hundreds of times, according to the Missourian.
The jury found his school “followed policies and procedures, but they were negligent in preventing bullying.” The district superintendent testified during the coroner’s inquest that school bullying was not systematic, according to the Daily Tribune.
Tom Mickes, a lawyer for the district, says he has not yet had the chance to defend them against any allegations in the inquest. The school district filed a lawsuit in March to obtain a copy of a transcript of the inquest to be able to defend itself from any allegations, local TV station KMIZ reports.
“We want the truth to come out,” Mickes tells PEOPLE.
“It was a tragedy that the young man took his life from a self-inflicted gun wound,” he says. “But there was no purpose for an inquest,” which he described as “one-sided.”
Some student witnesses gave “vague statements about bullying, which there is no evidence of,” Mickes says.
Suttner, he says, “had issues at work. This had nothing to do with school. … The jury said the school district followed all of its policies and procedures. I don’t know how you can follow all policies and procedures and still be found to be negligent.”
• PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: 35 Real Cases That Inspired the Show Law & Order is on sale now.
The district is also facing an ongoing dispute with Suttner’s parents: In June, the family filed a complaint on his behalf with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, according to KMIZ.
The family reportedly said Suttner was “made fun of and called names for everything about him,” and had faced bullying during “his entire school life attending Glasgow Public School.”
In an earlier statement to PEOPLE, Dairy Queen said the Fayette location where Suttner had worked was independently owned and operated, so it did not employ or supervise Branham, but the franchisee said she no longer worked there. (A message left with the franchise owner was not returned.)
Bringing Bullying to Light
In a statement of their own earlier this year, Suttner’s parents, Mike and Angela Suttner, thanked friends, family and neighbors for their support.
“There are so many good people in the community and school, which is why we will stay in the community,” they said.
But they also said they would like to work to prevent something like this from ever happening again: “It is long overdue that the issue of bullying be brought to light so that we can all work together to make change.”
The Suttners ended their statement by thanking everyone “for making Kenny’s voice heard.”
Branham is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 29.