Court records are filled with tales of murder by suicide. Lovers, friends, classmates, employers, and hospitals have all been charged with manslaughter for causing or aiding self-inflicted death. These tragic, often bizarre cases test the limits of our legal system. Should someone go to jail for assisting a suicide? What about harassing someone into taking their own life? Can one truly be responsible for another’s self-inflicted end?
10 Telecom Terror Tactics
In 2016, a Paris prosecutor filed a 193-page requisition recommending seven executives from France Telecom face involuntary manslaughter charges for causing at least 35 employees to commit suicide between 2008 and 2009. In October 2006, the company’s CEO announced massive restructuring. 22,000 employees had to leave, and 14,000 were forced to change positions to make room for 6,000 younger recruits.
France Telecom’s “extremely brutal management techniques” involved providing a bonus for each employee pushed out as well as forcing working mothers to commute over two hours to work. In July 2009, when a Marseilles-based technician killed himself, he blamed “management through terror.” In 2011, an employee set himself on fire in the Merignac branch’s parking lot. After the union filed suit in 2009, France Telecom’s history of terror tactics came under scrutiny. In total, 60 employees are known to have killed themselves over a three-year period. In 2013, the company changed its name to Orange.
9 Manager Manslaughter
On February 1, 2017, a former Dairy Queen manager was charged with involuntary manslaughter following a 17-year-old’s suicide. On December 21, 2016, Kenneth Suttner ended his life with a .22 bullet to the head. Overweight with a speech impediment, the 17-year-old faced horrific bullying. It became so bad that Suttner’s mother had to move him out of Glasgow High School. A Missouri court decided that no one had taunted Suttner more than his former boss, Harley Branham.
Jurors concluded that Dairy Queen “failed to properly train employees about harassment prevention and resolution.” They found that Branham, 21, had been the primary harasser. According to a former coworker, Branham forced Suttner to lay on his stomach and clean the Dairy Queen’s floor by hand. There were even allegations that she once hurled an incorrectly made burger at him. Branham admits to calling Suttner an “a—hole” but insists she is innocent.
8 A Friend In Need
In September 2016, Beong Kwun Cho was sentenced to ten years in prison for assisting his friend’s suicide. Cho admitted to shooting Yeon Woo Lee in the back of the head on a deserted street in Anaheim, California, but insisted that he was doing him a favor. Cho revealed that Lee wanted the suicide to look like a robbery in order to free his family from the stigma of suicide. Jurors believed Cho and convicted him with involuntary manslaughter.
The victim’s daughter, Jumi Lee, asked the judge for the maximum sentence of 21 years. She believes Cho murdered her father and invented the suicide story to tarnish his memory. She felt severely betrayed by her father’s longtime friend for acting so callously. In early 2011, when Lee was found dead, investigators discovered a size-13 footprint on his back. Cho revealed that Lee purchased the shoe and the gun to stage a robbery.
7 Vang Vindicated
In June 2016, a Minnesota man was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter following his girlfriend’s suicide. Prosecutors allege that Long Vang, 35, stalked and harassed Jessica Haban, 28, to the point where she took her own life on December 15, 2015. Vang employed verbal, emotional, physical, and mental abuse against Haban. Bruises on her arms, legs, and hands were visible at the time of her death. Prosecutors insist that this systematic abuse forced her hand.
In November 2016, a judge dismissed murder and manslaughter charges against Vang. Haban and Vang had been dated for 11 years and were considered “culturally married.” In 2015, following a traumatic brain injury, a domestic no-contact order was issued. Haban received hospitalization, but Vang ignored her precarious mental state and continued to relentlessly harass her until her death. Investigators found 1,800 text messages and phone calls from Vang to Haban that violated the court order.
6 Killer Texts
In October 2016, 20-year-old Michelle Carter was charged with involuntary manslaughter for sending texts to her boyfriend, encouraging him to take his life. On July 13, 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III was found dead in his pickup in a Kmart parking lot. He died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a gasoline-water pump in the back seat. Massachusetts prosecutors allege that Carter sent dozens of messages encouraging Roy to take his life—including one at 7:30 PM telling him to get back into the car after he had second thoughts.
Defense lawyer Jospeh Cataldo insists that Roy’s history of depression caused the suicide. Police did not see Roy’s truck in the parking lot when they conducted their routine search at 3:00 AM. This suggests Roy left after his conversation with Carter. However, the prosecution has produced multiple witnesses who reveal that Carter was on the phone with Roy when he died.
5 Prison Snafu
In December 2016, Michigan prosecutors filed involuntary manslaughter charges against a former corrections officer for the suicide of an inmate. Dianna Callahan, 47, was on duty at Huron Valley Correctional Facility when Janika Nicole Edmond took her life. The 25-year-old inmate had a history of mental illnesses and asked for a suicide prevention vest. Callahan denied her request. Moments later, Edmond was found hanging in her cell.
Prosecutors insist that Callahan was “grossly negligent in failing, in violation of MDOC policy, to perform the legal duty to timely and properly respond to a threat of suicide.” Callahan had worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections since 2003. She was suspended after Edmond’s death and fired several months later. In Michigan, involuntary manslaughter is a felony which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. Willful neglect of duty for a public official is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum 12-month sentence.
4 Trouble In Tillamook
On September 29, 2016, an Oregon grand jury indicted Brian David Henry, 41, with second-degree manslaughter for assisting the suicide of his 21-year-old wife. On September 9, a forest deputy discovered the remains of Anna Lorraine Proietti in a shallow grave in a remote forest area of Tillamook County. Proietti had committed suicide on July 16, 2016. Dental records were used to identify her decomposing corpse. Police have not revealed the cause of death. What Henry did to assist his wife’s suicide remains a mystery.
On September 21, investigators served a search warrant on the couple’s home. They seized a vehicle and arrested Henry for a probation violation from a previous conviction for methamphetamine trafficking. On August 31, 2015, Henry had been charged with assault and strangling his young wife. However, charges were dropped when Proietti claimed that she sustained the injuries when her husband restrained her from hurting herself.
3 Priory Clinic’s Priorities
The Priory Clinic in Roehampton, England, may face corporate manslaughter charges after failing to prevent the suicide of a patient in their care. Francesca “Frankie” Whyatt, 21, threatened suicide nine times before taking her own life on September 28, 2013. Coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service after ruling that the ward housing Whyatt was “simply unsafe.”
On September 21, a doctor reporting on Whyatt’s final risk assessment stated: “Do not let Frankie into the bathroom without supervision at all time, do not leave her unattended at any time for any reason.” Police investigating Whyatt’s death revealed that the nursing team on the Personality Disorder Unit had little or no training and were overly reliant on agency staff. Lilly Allen, Pete Doherty, and Eric Clapton are all former Priory patients.
2 Teen Tragedy
In March 2010, nine Massachusetts teenagers were charged for harassment that led to a 15-year-old girl’s suicide. On January 14, 2010, after a day of abuse, high school freshman Phoebe Prince was found hanging in the stairwell leading to her second-floor apartment. Prince had recently moved with her family from Ireland to South Hadley. The bullying began when Prince ended a brief relationship with a local boy.
Investigatiors discovered a campaign of humiliation, making it impossible for Prince to remain in school. On the day Prince took her life, she had been harassed at the high school library in plain sight of faculty, who did nothing to stop the abuse. District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel claims that the three months of bullying “far [exceeded] the limits of teenage relationship-related quarrels.” The charges levied against the teens include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting, criminal harassment, and stalking.
1 Meth And Semiautomatics
On January 2, 2015, authorities discovered Ameyanna Sanchez, 32, shot in the head in DuBois, Pennsylvania. They found a .380 Bersa semiautomatic pistol laying to Sanchez’s left as well as a matching shell casing. According to a police affidavit, “The position of the gun did not appear to be consistent with it falling from the victim’s hand after firing but as if moved afterwards.” The gun belonged to Brian Lee Schaffer, 45, the victim’s estranged boyfriend.
Schaffer initially stated that he was upstairs when he heard the gunshot. Later, he indicated that he pleaded with Sanchez to stop. During a polygraph, Schaffer admitted that he handed the mentally unstable victim a loaded weapon. Sanchez threatened to shoot herself. When he reached for the weapon, it went off. Schaffer revealed that he brought methamphetamine to the residence and that Sanchez had been awake for days at the time of the incident.
Dubbed the “Indiana Jones of folk music” by TimeOut.com, Geordie McElroy has hunted spell songs, incantation, and arcane melodies for the Smithsonian, Sony Music Group, and private collectors. A leading authority on occult music, he is also singer of LA-based band Blackwater Jukebox.