COVINGTON - The man who was given a life sentence for running down a family, injuring four and killing a 2-year-old in the Covington McDonald's parking lot in May 2006, died in state custody on June 24. He was buried Thursday afternoon at a West Street cemetery in Covington, following a service at Grace United Methodist Church on Washington Street.
Though 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 the church holding up signs that read, "We love and miss you Avery," "Child murder," "Today the world is a better a place" and "Avery King is the true victim."
"I'm here to make sure Avery is remembered and to make sure (Barnes') life is remembered for what he truly was - a murderer," said King, the mother of Avery Nicole King, who was 2 years old when she died from injuries sustained from Barnes repeatedly running over her, her mother, her aunt Stephanie Casola and her two cousins, Isaac and Jake.
"Today is a good day. He is no longer on this earth," King said during Barnes' funeral. "We're rejoicing today. You can put that as a family quote."
She said Avery would have been 5 years old last month. "She would have gone to kindergarten, but I won't get to do that because of him," she said.
King, a resident of North Carolina, and her husband have since had two more children - Gracie, 21/2, who King was pregnant with at the time of the attack, and 10-month-old Aiden Noah, who King said "is named after his big sister."
The Covington Police Department headed up the investigation into the incident, arresting Barnes still in his vehicle on U.S. Highway 278 minutes after he attacked the family, leaving them bleeding in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant.
"I hope this brings a little closure to the whole situation for all parties concerned in the community," said Police Chief Stacey Cotton, who was outside the church during Barnes' funeral.
It was alleged during proceedings leading up to Barnes' trial that he laughed while ramming the car repeatedly into the family, and 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 a plea agreement was reached prior to trial, with Barnes pleading guilty to charges of murder and aggravated battery.
Wynne told the court given the defendant's medical condition and chances for survival, he consulted with the victims and they agreed that allowing him to enter into a negotiated plea may be the best option.
"I was afraid that he would deteriorate to the point that he wouldn't be able to stand trial," Wynne said at the time, adding that at least the court case was over for the King and Casola family. "It's not justice for them, but it's as close as humanly possible given the circumstances of this case."
The day Barnes was buried, Wynne echoed those thoughts, as well as remembering that many suffered as a result of Barnes' acts.
"Our sympathies and prayers remain with the King and Casola families. Lanny Barnes' act was one of the most heinous that I can recall in more than 20 years of prosecuting criminal cases. However, he alone was responsible for the murder of Avery King and the injuries he inflicted on her family members," Wynne said. "I'm sure that his family has also suffered through this ordeal, as the families of defendants often do. For that reason, our sympathies and prayers are with them as well."
Barnes was placed in the infirmary of the Newton County Detention Center not long after his arrest and received treatment at several hospitals during the time he was in Newton County custody. Medical bills were estimated to be close to half a million dollars.
Following his plea, he was transferred to state custody, where his treatment apparently continued, although spokesmen for the state have repeatedly said they cannot release details on Barnes' treatment.
"At the time of his death, he was housed at the Augusta State Medical Prison," said Sharmelle Brooks, Public Affairs spokesman with the Georgia Department of Corrections. "I don't think he had been there long."
Brooks said she could not say when he arrived there or why he was taken there, although she did say he died of "natural causes." It was said at the time Barnes was taken into state custody that he was in need of a bone marrow transplant; however, Brooks said she could not comment on any medical treatment Barnes may have received while in state prison as that information is considered confidential.
Prior to being taken to the medical prison, Barnes was housed at Valdosta State Prison, Brooks said. Valdosta State is described on the Department of Corrections Web site as a "close" security facility for inmates who are "considered escape risks, have assault histories, are considered dangerous and may have detainers for other serious crimes."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at email@example.com.