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Part II: Husband fights for anti-bullying law after wife’s suicide

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WVVA) A husband is fighting for a change in law after he said his wife was pushed off the New River Gorge Bridge — not by anyone’s hands, but words.

In August, two years after Denise Fernatt’s death in 2017, her family filed a wrongful death suit against a group of people who they say tormented her in the days leading up to her death.

During that time, they filed a police report over explicit pictures of Denise on her husband’s personal computer that were posted all over her Glasgow community — on stop signs, at her Church, and along major roadways.

Now, the family is working with activist Wanda Carney to fight for change of law.

“I’ve never seen a case like this, where people set out to destroy someone. These were not junior high or elementary students. They were grown adults.”

At the time, Roy Fernatt knew things were bad for his wife, who battled anxiety and traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident, but he didn’t know just how bad until he got home and found her passwords taped to their phone.

Fernatt got word to call a friend who worked as an EMT.

“At that point, I asked him what was going on and he said, you haven’t heard? They found your wife’s car up on New River Gorge Bridge.”

Denise had jumped.

“She got in her car with a suicide note apologizing for this day,” said Carney. “And she was with the termination letter and gospel music to meet her maker. That is a sad, sad state of affairs.”

When the couple had gone to the Glasgow Police station just days earlier to file a report, Fernautt said they were told there was no statute by which to press charges. There is a statute to prevent minors from sharing explicit picture of minors, and for acting as bullies, but nothing on the books for adults.

Carney and Fernatt plan to change that.

“My goal is that every time someone is bullied, they have someone to go to, a lawyer standing in a courtroom saying we have Neesy’s Law. You can’t do this.”

Carney said West Virginia Sen. Patricia Rucker, along with others, have already expressed an interest in taking up a measure addressing this issue in the 2020 legislative session.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WVVA) ‘Being alive scares me more than death.’ That was the last sentence Denise Fernatt would ever write before jumping to her death off of the New River Gorge Bridge in 2017.

In a wrongful death suit filed in August, her husband, Roy Fernatt, outlines intense bullying that went on in the week leading up to her death.

“Everything about her was wonderful. There were no faults in her. In my book, there wasn’t.”

Fernatt said it started in April of 2017, when his wife made a Facebook post that drew the ire of some of their friends. It said ‘It’s 4-20. Have you talked to your kids lately?’

“That’s where everything started and then it’s didn’t stop.”

Fernatt said Denise’s friends turned on her.  He said they somehow obtained private, partially nude pictures from his computer, printed copies, and posted them all over town — including at the couple’s Church.

The pictures, he said, eventually landed on the desk of Judge John Hatcher, where she worked.

“He called her in the office and kept flashing the picture in her face telling her she was a disgrace to the department. He wouldn’t let her explain nothing. He wouldn’t let her explain that the picture was over seven years old.”

Fernatt’s attorney, Michael Clifford, has never seen anything like it. “Everybody failed her… in her neighborhood, her social organizations, and in her employment organization.”

Soon after he said Denise was fired over the pictures, Fernatt said his wife took off for the bridge.

In the car was gospel music, her termination notice, and a suicide letter apologizing to those who had to answer the call and saying “she loved everyone…everyone.”

Two years later, Fernatt’s husband is still seeking answers. “I would do anything for her to still be here. I lost everything. I lost my whole world…that’s what I lost.”

In addition to the civil suit filed against those who posted the pictures, Fernatt said he is fighting for a change of law. Part II of this story is set to air on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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