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'Kenny's Law', SB791 to be heard by Missouri Senate

More than two dozen people will enter the Missouri Capitol Monday wearing shirts in remembrance of Kenneth Louis Suttner. The crowd will be there in support of Senate Bill 791. (File)

More than two dozen people will enter the Missouri Capitol Monday wearing shirts in remembrance of Kenneth Louis Suttner. They'll be there in hopes the loved one they lost will inspire change, not just in people's hearts, but in the law.

Senate Bill 791 was pre-filed on Dec. 11, 2017. On Monday, it will be heard by the Missouri Senate.

Senator Jamilah Nasheed is sponsoring the bill. The proposed legislation would charge individuals with involuntary manslaughter if they knowingly provoke anyone to commit suicide and their provocations result in death. The bill also includes incitement through the phone or via the internet.

Kathleen Bonczyk is a supporter of the bill and president of the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps provide training and research on workplace violence. The Suttner's family sought her assistance after he took his own life in 2016. She has been working with them since.

"I've known them about a year now," she said. "This was a groundbreaking case that really broke open the conversation that needed to be had with respect to this national tragedy that we have with bullying."

She said the Suttner family supports this law in Kenneth's honor. Bonczyk said she believes it could help to prevent future tragedies.

"It touches on and includes cyberbullying, and bullying through telephones and texts, things of this nature," she said. "If you look at some of the things that people are so bold as to type about other people, some of the horrible things that they say over a computer to a screen or into a telephone in a text they might not ever do in person."

She said the current law requires a prosecutor to prove criminal negligence, which can be difficult. The new law would make it a crime in the state of Missouri to encourage someone to commit suicide.

The Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee at the Missouri Senate will hear the bill Monday at 2:00 p.m.

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