updated 9/26/2006 6:57:23 PM ET 2006-09-26T22:57:23

A man accused of running down five family members, killing a 2-year-old girl, in a McDonald’s parking lot last May pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

Lanny Perry Barnes faces charges of murder, aggravated battery and aggravated assault and prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty.

“I choose to remain silent, I choose to remain silent,” Barnes told Newton County Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton on Tuesday when Benton asked if he agreed with the way his lawyers were handling the case.

Barnes, 46, is accused of ramming his car into two sisters and their three children, backing up and ramming them again May 23 at a McDonald’s parking lot in Covington, 32 miles east of Atlanta.

Two-year-old Avery Nicole King of Asheville, N.C., died. Her mother, Anita King; aunt, Stephanie Casola; and Casola’s two sons, Isaac and Jake, were injured.

Benton granted Barnes’ attorneys six months to investigate their client’s mental health history, but said he may adjust the timetable depending on what experts advise.

Chris Adams, Barnes’ attorney, said it could take up to a year. Barnes’ mother has said her son has a history of mental illness. He also has been diagnosed with leukemia since his arrest.

Ken Wynne, a prosecutor, said last month that a previously ordered mental evaluation has been sealed pending trial.

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