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Coroner's inquest transcript reveals testimony of those close to case

Coroners inquest transcript reveals...

FAYETTE, Mo. - The transcript of a coroner's inquest held last year reveals what co-workers and investigators said about the months and moments prior to a teen's suicide.

The 269-page document details the testimony witnesses gave to a jury in Howard County in January 2017 regarding 17-year-old Kenneth Suttner's suicide. The inquest jury decided that Harley Branham, Suttner's former manager at the Fayette Dairy Queen, was responsible for driving him to suicide, and that Glasgow Public Schools was negligent in preventing bullying at the school toward Suttner.

The transcript is at the center of a lawsuit between the Howard County coroner, which held the inquest into Kenneth Suttner's death last January, and Glasgow Public Schools. The coroner's office said the transcript was a closed record due to the criminal investigation, despite the inquest being an open hearing.

The transcript details what teachers, co-workers and Sheriff's Department investigators knew and learned before and after Suttner's death. Several co-workers described his disdain for Dairy Queen and Branham, who they claim would call him names. One co-worker said Branham once threw a hamburger at him, and would curse at him in front of others.

Branham took the stand at the inquest, and denied ever bullying or harassing Suttner.

Bradley Young, the Howard County sheriff's deputy that investigated Suttner's suicide, spoke to several people about his time at Dairy Queen. He also described portions of Suttner's suicide note, found at the back of a notebook left in his room.

"It's just I don't belong here anymore,'" Young quoted at the hearing. "'It will be better when I'm gone. Don't mourn my passing.'"

Co-workers at Dairy Queen called Suttner a person with a "big heart" who learned the job quickly. Julie Sieckmann, another manager at the store, said Branham verbally abused Suttner several times during the months they worked together. She forced him to clean the floors under tables on his stomach, despite the ability to move tables out of the way. Sieckmann said Branham once threw a cheeseburger at Suttner and accused him of making it incorrectly.

Heather McDonald, another co-worker, said Suttner at one point alluded to killing himself because of Branham's treatment.

Thomas Mickes, an attorney for Glasgow Public Schools, said he had issues with the way coroner Frank Flaspohler conducted the inquest. Several teachers were made to look bad, he said, and the transcript would help the district clear their names moving forward.

The coroner's office denied ABC 17 News' request for a copy of the transcript, claiming it was a closed record due to the ongoing criminal investigation.


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