A gifted student from North Carolina who was visiting family in Baltimore over the holidays, Barnes was scheduled to graduate early from high school. She did not have a history of running away or being a troubled child.
“Based on the timeline and background we were pretty certain she did not run away and we expected foul play almost immediately,” Baltimore Police spokespersonAnthony Guglielmi told Aol. BlackVoices in an interview.
Police thought that Barnes might have been abducted and taken out of the state ofMaryland. The now-17-year-old was reported missing on December 28. They wanted to get her face on as many televisions and billboards across the country as quickly possible.
“In the event someone picked her up in van and drove outside of Baltimore no one knows she’s missing unless we get the word out. If they drove her to Conneticut, no one knows she is missing,” said Guglielmi.
That’s when police reached out to the national media for attention. The response was less than enthusiastic.
“I noticed the reaction from national media was a bit anemic. It was very frustrating to turn on cable news channels and see the big story of the day was birds dropping out of the sky in Arkansas and dead fish. Meanwhile Phylicia is missing and could be in danger. I just wanted them to flash her face out there for a few minutes,” said Guglielmi.
The reason soon became clear to Guglielmi when he thought about other missing persons cases such as that of Natalee Holloway, a white girl who went missing in Aruba in 2005.
“I didn’t feel Phylicia’s case was being treated the same way as Natalee Holloway. Phylicia is a wholesome, good student. She’s not in a gang and not into drugs. She is a beautiful young lady who graduated high school early and is going to college,” said Gugliemli. “The only difference between Phylicia Barnes and Natalee Holoway is that Phylicia went missing in Baltimore and is African-American.”