Statement released by Anita King and Stephanie Casola
When I got the call that Lanny Barnes had died all the emotion of the last three years came crashing down like a tidal wave. The images of the car speeding toward me, the driver laughing as he hit us over and over, the image of my Avery laying on the pavement, the images of my family in the hospital, and then of Avery’s funeral.....the images came at me one by one. I felt as if I needed to do something, but what? With sorrowful tears pouring out of me, I decided I needed to go to Georgia. A vigil would be the best way to honor my daughter one last time.
Upon arriving in Covington, Stephanie and I took all the correct measures and obtained a permit from the local authorities to stand vigil. We made signs and held up pictures of Avery across the street from the funeral home. We were across five lanes of traffic, and maintained a peaceful vigil. We in no way disrupted the service or any funeral proceedings, as was previously falsely reported. We never spoke or shouted, we remained silent, deciding that the reason we were there was not to be disruptive but to simply stand up for the true victim Avery Nicole King. We felt that it was important that the life Lanny Barnes took also be remembered on the day that he was to be memorialized. Also to clarify, we did not follow the family to the cemetery or desecrate the grave as was also falsely reported. Some people have referred to this as a protest, and in no way were we protesting. A protest is when you are against something, and we certainly we not against Lanny Barnes passing away, we were simply taking a stand for the baby he so maliciously murdered.
People like to say "Move on" and "It’s time to heal".... we have no choice but to move on and time is healing to an extent. But to a mother who has buried her baby, there is no such thing as "moving on" and really "healing" for when you become a mother you are a part of that child, and when you lose a child, part of you dies with that baby. Every mother reading this will understand that once you hold that baby in your arms your life will never be the same, God gives us moms a wonderful gift...a mother’s love. I will forever love and miss my daughter Avery. So understand that this was just something I needed to do, to take one last stand for my baby girl, who didn’t have a fighting chance that day. Who in one minute was having so much fun playing with her cousins in the McDonalds play land and the next minute she was gone from our lives forever.
My sister and I have always had a strong bond, but now the bond we share is indescribable, for only we understand what it was like to be there that day, to know what it feels like to be underneath that car. To understand what it means to be so frightened in a parking lot just by the sound of an engine roar, to understand what true extreme mental anguish really means. We not only know what it means to be victims, but we understand what it means to be survivors as well. We know how blessed we are, we understand not to take anything for granted especially our family, especially our babies. We understand the meaning of true grace and peace, and for that we would like to extend our deepest thanks to the citizens of Covington for your continued support, and prayer. Your comfort and support has meant so much, and has been so heartfelt.
A Newton County grand jury decided Friday not to return any indictments in the case against Stephanie Casola and Anita King who were accused of disrupting the funeral of Lanny Barnes on July 2.
The Barnes family accused Anita King and Stephanie Casola of disruptive conduct at a funeral service, criminal trespass and unlawful placement of signs. The actions came after the death of Lanny Barnes, who was convicted of killing King’s daughter and Casola’s niece, 2-year-old Avery Nicole, after running her over with his car outside of an area McDonald’s in May of 2006. Barnes had been in prison serving his sentence on those charges when he died.
According to a media release from the office of the district attorney, "after considering all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the events of July 2, 2009, the date of Lanny Barnes’ funeral, as well as the applicable law, the grand jury decided not to return indictments in the case. As far as the State of Georgia is concerned, this brings this matter to a close."
For the Barnes family, who had contacted the NAACP about the situation alleging their civil rights had been violated, the situation is not over despite the grand jury’s decision, according to NAACP representative Edward DuBose.
"I have not been privy to any news concerning the grand jury decision not to indict however if this is the case we are outraged at this decision and we will immediately request that the district attorney place this matter before a second grand jury at which he has the power to do," DuBose said in an e-mail late Friday.
"In addition to the King and Casola family we demand that an investigation be launched into the police department as they contributed to the violation of the law by the King and Casola families. The Georgia State Conference contends that the civil rights of Ms. Manetta Clemons [sister of Lanny Barnes] and her family were violated also and we plan to pursue this with the U. S. Justice Department."
Prior to DuBose’s comment District Attorney Ken Wynne said "I really do hope that these families can move on from this and put this behind them. The grand jury considered all of the facts and circumstances and heard from Mrs. Manetta Clements [Barnes’ sister] and after considered not to return an indictment in the case."
DuBose said Avery’s death was a tragedy, but that justice not served was also a tragedy.
"We have always said that our prayers are with the tragic loss of life by these families," said DuBose. "However, to not indict sends a message that every citizen can take the law into their own hands and not worry about any repercussions."