By Jeff Jenkins
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County man alleges a group of people bullied and intimidated his wife causing her to commit suicide by jumping off the New River Gorge Bridge.
Attorneys for Roy Fernatt, of Hughes Creek, filed the civil lawsuit earlier this week in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Fernatt’s wife, Denise Fernatt, 46, a longtime employee at the Fayette County Courthouse, died on Aug. 5, 2017. According to the lawsuit, the decision to take her own life followed “a few days of mental and emotional distress caused by the bullying and hazing actions” of the defendants in the lawsuit.
It’s alleged the defendants posted suggestive photographs of Fernatt in public places in eastern Kanawha County including on the front door of the church Fernatt attended. The lawsuit also alleges a photo was sent to Fernatt’s employer who then informed her of his intentions to fire her.
According to the lawsuit, the actions of the defendants “were carried out so as to cause embarrassment and humiliation” to Fernatt “with the specific idea of causing” her “to commit suicide.”
The defendants include Kanawha County residents Marty Blankenship, Lesley Taylor, Crystal Foster, Amanda Tucker, aka, Amanda Holmes, a Jane Doe, a John Doe, the Florida-based Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club and Local Chapter 40 of the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club.
There was a criminal investigation but no charges were filed.
The lawsuit alleges the motorcycle club, of which the defendants were members, condoned the actions.
“Before the bullying and hazing occurred, Local Chapter, including its members and its officers,knew that the bullying and hazing would occur, encouraged and ratified the actions, and failed to take steps to prevent the actions,” the lawsuit said.
The photos of Fernatt were first posted in public places on July 30, 2017, including, according to the lawsuit, “the local police station, the Cedar Grove Life Center, Shrewsbury Church of God and numerous other signs, utility poles and bulletin boards.”
Fernatt’s supervisor was given one of the photographs on Aug. 4, 2017. She took her life the next day.
The lawsuit seeks money for funeral expenses and employment benefits as well as mental anguish, pain and suffering.
The case has been assigned to Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit. Roy Fernatt is represented by attorney, former Kanawha County prosecutor, Mike Clifford.