Lisa Barnes Says She Was Unaware That Daughter Hannah Drank Underage; Jury Shown Video Of Tragic Train Accident

Friday, January 31, 2014
Lisa Barnes
Lisa Barnes

Lisa Barnes told a Circuit Court jury on Friday morning that she was unaware that her daughter, Hannah, was an underage drinker. She said, "I would never allow my (underage) daughter to drink."

Ms. Barnes also denied that on the early morning that her daughter and Michael Hennen were killed by a train at Sale Creek she sent a text to Hannah, saying, "Don't do anything wrong and don't wake me up."

Ms. Barnes is seeking a $25 million judgment against Hennen's Restaurant from the jury in the courtroom of Judge Neil Thomas. The lawsuit claims that Hennen's was negligent in providing alcohol to Ms. Barnes and contributing to her death on Aug. 22, 2011, at McDonald Farm.

Al Henry, attorney for Hennen's, asked Ms. Barnes why she did not save the IPhone she was using that night and early morning to text back and forth with Hannah. He said all that evidence is gone.

Ms. Barnes said she upgrades her IPhone every year, including about three months after the death of her 19-year-old daughter.

She said investigator Chris Chambers asked to examine her phone when he came to her apartment to tell her that Hannah had been killed. She said he handed the phone back to her, but she believed he had gotten the necessary information off it.

Ms. Barnes, who is from Tallahassee, Fla., and later lived at Taylorville, Ill., said she moved to Chattanooga in 1986. She had two children, Ryan and Teal Orr, by Tony Orr. She said she met Phil Barnes in 1990. She said they worked at the same bank, but at different branches. They met when both attended a charity walk.

They had two children together, Hannah and David Barnes.

Ms. Barnes said Hannah lived with her father when he moved to Signal Mountain so Hannah could go to high school there. She said Hannah later moved back in with her. She denied that she charged her "rent," but said she had her pay about $100 a month so she would know the value of money.

She denied that Hannah told her she wanted to move out, though she said they did sometimes argue as did other mothers and daughters.

Regarding the testimony of two sisters who appeared for the other side, Ms. Barnes said, "I'm just not close to my sisters at all - or my mom."

She said she did not see Hannah drinking at her third marriage in 2008 to a Doster. She said Kris Ray, soccer coach, later moved in with her for 5-6 months. She said he drank beer.

She was shown photos of Hannah with drinks in her hand at different events. She said she later learned that Teal had provided her with alcohol at one event.

The witness said she did not know that Hannah was carrying two IDs with her, including one that showed her to be 21 - the legal drinking age. She said Cole Adams, boyfriend of Hannah, told her she had just had it a few months and never used it.  

Ms. Barnes was shown whiskey bottles in photos taken at her place. She said it must have been brought in by others while she was not there. "I wouldn't know how to drink whiskey," she said.

She said on the weekend that Hannah was killed, she went to Gainesville, Ga., to see Teal. She was gone from Friday to Sunday evening.

Attorney Henry noted that Cole Adams testified that he spent the night at the Barnes residence that Saturday night and Ms. Barnes was there. She said that was not correct.

She said that Sunday night the only message she remembers from Hannah is "that she was with Michael at Hennen's." She said Hannah did not have a curfew, but "she always let me know where she was and who she was with."  

She said she did not work on Mondays so she slept in. She said she did not get the call about her daughter's death until between noon and 1 p.m. She said she did not realize that Hannah had not come home until she got up to walk the dog and came back in and checked her room.

She said she then began texting Hannah, but got no response.

When she was told by her son, she said, "I was in disbelief. I was hysterical. I think I hung up the phone." She said people eventually began arriving and then they went up on Lookout Mountain "to Uncle John's (Barnes)."

Ms. Barnes said she worked at the Gallery 1401 with Sue Markley, but was fired about a month after her daughter's death. She said she now works at the Lindsay Street Music Hall.

She described Hannah as "beautiful, full of life, just fun to be around."  

Ms. Barnes said, "I think of her every second."

She said, "Every time I cross a railroad track I picture the way she died. I try to black it out." 

She said she got one third of her ashes and she keeps them by her bed. She said she put some of her favorite perfume inside "so it smells like Hannah when I open it."

Teal Orr said she did see her sister, Hannah, with beers on the two occasions shown in Facebook photos, but that was the only time. She said, though her mother had "zero tolerance" on underage drinking, she did not admonish Teal.

On one of the occasions at the new home of Teal's friend, she said Hannah had "a couple of beers" along with four plates of pasta. 

She said her own father left when she was about three and Phil Barnes became "daddy" to her. She said, "He is the father who is going to walk me down the aisle in May." She said when she is in town on Sundays she has coffee with him, they go to church and then she hangs around with his family.

Ms. Orr said she graduated from Chattanooga Christian School and got a "full-ride" soccer scholarship to Brenau College. She stayed at Gainesville and became a nurse.

But she said she moved from the emergency room "after Hannah's passing because it became very difficult to handle the tragedies that came into the ER."

She said she remains close to her mother and sees her about once a month.

Ms. Orr described Hannah, like other witnesses, as beautiful and joyful and as being fond of summer and Christmas. She said, "She was so joyful and lovable. You just wanted to hug her every time you were around her. She was just amazing."

She said she got the call about Hannah's death from her mother, who she said was hysterical. She said, "I was really apprehensive about her safety so I stayed on the line until someone arrived."

She said she led in the planning of the memorial service, saying, "I wanted to make sure that it was perfect."

Her direct testimony ended with the showing of a video of her and Hannah "laughing and dancing  and headed to Target."

On cross-examination, she was asked about her mother and Kris Ray having loud arguments and the police having to be called. She said she knew of one such occasion.

Brittany Hudson, a witness for the defense, said she worked with Hannah at Hennen's and they became best friends.

She said she did not see Hannah sampling any wine at the restaurant. However, she said Hannah did drink away from work, including two times when they were visiting with other friends. She said on one of those occasions she had to drive Hannah home.

Ms. Hudson said Michael Hennen was an excellent manager, who "always put a smile on our faces."

She said he took several of the employees, including her and Hannah, to a movie, several weeks before Hannah's death.

Ms. Hudson said the relationship Hannah had with her mother "was really rocky."

She said she worked with Hannah the night before her death. She said she "was in desperate need of money. The next day was the cutoff for Chattanooga State."

The defense called an expert in blood alcohol testing who said the blood alcohol samples given for Hannah of .07 and for Michael of .086 were not reliable.

Dr. Alphonse Poklis of Virginia Commonwealth University said there was no autopsy on them and the blood was drawn by a "blind stick." He said the samples could have been contaminated, especially since the victims suffered massive trauma. 

The defense showed the jury video taken from the cab of the Norfolk Southern train of the fatal accident. It was shown twice, but it was difficult to see.

Still photos taken from the video were handed to the jury.

The case is set to resume on Tuesday morning. It is expected to conclude on Wednesday.

Over 100 exhibits have been submitted to the jury thus far.




Teal Orr
Teal Orr

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