Lanny Perry Barnes, the man convicted of killing 2-year-old Avery Nicole King in 2006, died June 24 at Augusta State Medical Prison — nearly three years to the day when the attack on the Casola and King families took place outside the McDonald’s restaurant on U.S, Highway 278.
Barnes was charged in King’s death, as well as causing injuries to Stephanie Casola — the child’s aunt, and her two children, Isaac and a Jacob and King’s mother Anita, who was pregnant at the time of the attack. Witnesses said that Barnes smiled and laughed as he struck the family and proceeded to run over them several times.
Shortly after his arrest, 49-year-old Barnes was transported from the Newton County Jail to Newton Medical Center and then to Emory University Hospital. It was later revealed that Barnes was in the late stages of leukemia.
According to retired sheriff Joe Nichols, Barnes' medical bills were in excess of $470,000 — a third of the NCSO medical care budget — in the 17 months he was in custody in the county before being sent to prison to serve life without the possibility of parole on the charges of murder and aggravated battery.
"I’m glad to see there is finally an end to this tragedy," said Covington Chief of Police Stacey Cotton. "Maybe now the community can move on."Paul Casola, the father of Isaac and Jacob, now 6 and 7 years old, said that although he
could not speak for Stephanie or Anita he had personally forgiven Barnes and his mother Mary before Barnes’ death.
"I had to let everything I had toward Lanny Barnes go," he said Thursday afternoon. "What I have are two wonderful boys — Isaac, who is fun-loving and Jake, who was a stand-out on his football team last year — so I have everything to be thankful for.
"I am still sad that Avery was taken from us," he continued. "But any anger I had toward him or his mother, I let go a long time ago."
According to Sharmelle Brooks, public affairs officer for the Georgia Department of Corrections, Barnes died of natural causes, but he could not elaborate on if Barnes’ death had to do with his cancer.
Barnes was buried in Newton County Thursday afternoon. Stephanie and Anita, along with others, held a demonstration outside of the church during the funeral, holding signs with messages such as "Today the world is a better place" and "Child Murder," along with a large banner with pictures of Avery King.