SPRING HILL — Its corners shredded and pages torn, the Bible was found near his body.
What looks like a tire track is stamped across the phrase "God's Word" on its front cover. The book and its owner, Vincent Lloyd Barnes, were dragged along U.S. 19 by a truck Sunday afternoon before authorities say he was tossed onto the side of the road, where he died.
Barnes was riding his bicycle to work on the paved shoulder of the highway when, witnesses say, a man driving a black Chevrolet Silverado pickup plowed into him and kept on going. The Florida Highway Patrol is still searching for a suspect.
The 28-year-old's father, Stanley Barnes, on Monday said his son would have already forgiven the killer. That's just who he was.
"He wouldn't hold this against the guy for nothing," Stanley Barnes said. "He would have forgiven him before I would have."
"Vinny" to all who knew him, he never parted with his Bible. As he did Sunday, Vinny packed it with him on his 40-minute bike ride to work at Texas Roadhouse on Cortez Boulevard, where he washed dishes. He also took it to his tent in the woods, where he'd lived for months to save money to buy a house.
After a painful divorce about two years ago, his parents say he lost a job at another restaurant. Unemployment checks didn't cover his rent and child support for his now-3-year-old son, Malachi. He searched nearly a year before he was hired at the steak house about five months ago.
Co-workers said he took pride in his work. Manager Keith Ball, who has worked in restaurants for 20 years, said Vinny was the best dishwasher he'd ever seen. Two weeks after he hired Vinny, Ball gave him a raise.
Wednesday, Vinny was named March employee of the month from among the restaurant's 100 or so staffers. His name and picture will be placed the front entrance.
On April 18, Ball said, Texas Roadhouse will give 10 percent of its revenue to Vinny's family. Management has offered to cover funeral expenses.
Stanley Barnes hadn't spoken to his son in the past couple of weeks. Vinny's phone had been turned off, so Barnes dropped a note off for him at work. Authorities found it folded and tucked in the pages of the Bible.
"Call me if you like," the note read in part. "If not, I will continue to pray for you as I always have — Love Dad."
Barnes never heard back.
Times staff writer Rita Farlow contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or [email protected]