Barnes' medical bills top $500K

COVINGTON - Newton County taxpayers shelled out $542,985 to cover the medical expenses of Lanny Perry Barnes during his stay at the county detention center, Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols said.

"It was the highest figure by far of any medical expenses we've had ... because of the nature of his medical problems," Nichols said. "It was just complicated and a very costly problem for Newton County."

Barnes, 47, was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after his arrest in May 2006 for running over 2-year-old Avery Nicole King of North Carolina and her mother, Anita King, along with Covington residents Stephanie Casola and her two sons, Isaac and Jake, in the parking lot of McDonald's restaurant on U.S. Highway 278. Avery King died as a result of the injuries she sustained.

Barnes pleaded guilty to murder and four counts of aggravated battery in October. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Newton County District Attorney Ken Wynne, who had been seeking the death penalty in the case, told the court at Barnes' plea hearing that the defendant's medical condition played a role in his decision to allow him to enter into a plea deal.

"I was afraid that he would deteriorate to the point that he wouldn't be able to stand trial," he said at the time.

According to Wynne, Barnes' cancer had progressed to the point that a bone marrow transplant was the only viable treatment available for him and that he only stood a one in three chance of survival. It is unknown whether Barnes has received the bone marrow transplant. After his sentencing, he was turned over to the care of the Georgia Department of Corrections, which declined to give his medical condition.

The sheriff said Barnes was hospitalized more than 10 times during his stay at the detention center, which also cost the county money in transportation expenses and overtime for deputies assigned to watch him around the clock.

"It was exceedingly costly," the sheriff said.

Nichols said the experience he's had with housing Barnes is one he hopes he, nor anyone else, will have to deal with in his career again.

"Besides just the money costs, it was a very emotional, trying time for quite a few people," Nichols said. "I had many, many phone calls about his condition, some concerned about his well-being and some not so caring about his well-being. But I don't think I've ever had as many comments. I don't think I've ever had as many questions from the public about any inmate or anybody charged with homicide as I have with Barnes."

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.