COVINGTON, Ga. – A man accused of intentionally striking with his car two sisters and their three small children in a McDonald's parking lot was charged with murder after the youngest victim died, authorities said.
Avery Nicole King, 2, died Wednesday, a day after she was struck while leaving the restaurant along with her mother, aunt and cousins, ages 3 and 4.
Lanny Barnes, already facing five counts of felony aggravated assault, is now also charged with felony murder, malice murder and four counts of aggravated battery. Felony murder in Georgia law is a killing committed during the commission of another crime, while malice murder is killing with deliberation.
Warrants for the new charges were issued Wednesday night and personally served to Barnes, Police Chief Stacey Cotton said.
"There was clear intent to injure the people. It was obvious," Cotton said. "This was absolutely not an accident."
Barnes, 46, appeared Wednesday before Chief Magistrate Judge Henry Baker and was ordered held without bail pending a mental health evaluation.
Cotton said the motive was unknown and the attack was apparently random. He declined to comment on witness reports that Barnes was smiling during the attack.
Avery's mother, Anita King, 36, of Asheville, North Carolina, was treated and released from Newton Medical Center on Tuesday but was readmitted Wednesday, the family said.
Her sister Stephanie Casola, 33, of Covington, was listed in fair condition Wednesday, Grady Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Denise Simpson said. Casola's children, Jacob Paul, 4, and Isaac Raymond, 3, were in serious condition at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Casola's husband, the Rev. Paul Casola, said the family would find a way to move forward, but "forgiveness is not the responsibility of the justice system."
Barnes' lawyer, Anthony Carter, said mental health could be a factor in the defense. Mary Barnes said her son has suffered depression for years.
"We are beginning a full investigation into all aspects of this case, including Mr. Barnes' mental capacity at the time of the incident, as well as past mental health treatment," Carter said.
Tests on blood and urine samples taken from Barnes were pending, authorities said.