COVINGTON -- The man who ran down a family as they were leaving the Covington McDonald's restaurant in May 2006 died at Augusta State Medical Prison and was brought home to Covington for burial in early July.
Although the family of Lanny Perry Barnes apparently tried to keep the funeral quiet, the family of his victims did what they could to bring attention to his passing. Anita King, Stephanie Casola and several supporters stood across the street from Grace United Methodist Church on Washington Street holding up signs that read, "We love and miss you Avery," "Child Murder," "Today the world is a better place" and "Avery King is the true victim."
"Today is a good day. He is no longer on this earth. We're rejoicing today. You can put that as a family quote," said King, the mother of Avery Nicole King who was 2 years old when she died of injuries sustained from Barnes repeatedly running over her, her mother, her aunt (Casola) and her two cousins, Isaac and Jake.
Newton County District Attorney Ken Wynne sought the death penalty for Barnes. However, Barnes was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after his arrest and because of that, prior to trial a plea agreement was reached with Barnes pleading guilty to charges of murder and aggravated battery.
Upon Barnes' death, both law enforcement officials and prosecutors expressed the hope that some measure of closure would be found for all parties concerned, but it was not to be.
Barnes' family members contacted the Covington Police the morning after his burial to report that two signs had been placed on his grave in Westview Cemetery on Washington Street.
Officials said the signs were "similar to those the protesters had at the funeral the day before;" however, no damage was done to the grave or grave marker and after a check of the city code, it was determined no law had been broken.
The family then took its complaints to the Covington City Council and District Attorney Ken Wynne, alleging that protesters were in violation of a state law that prohibits displaying visual images that convey fighting words and were within 500 feet of a site being used for a funeral or memorial service.
In October, a Newton County grand jury declined to indict King and Casola after considering charges of disruptive conduct at a funeral service, criminal trespass and unlawful placement of signs.
"As far as the State of Georgia is concerned, this brings this matter to a close," Wynne said. "I hope that all of the families involved, as well as the entire community, will be able to move forward and not be bound by events of the past."
Newton Citizen reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this story.