Nearly two years ago, North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes went missing while she was visiting relatives in Baltimore, Maryland. Barnes’ body was later found in a river, and yesterday police arrested a man in connection with the 16-year-old honor student’s death.
Michael Johnson, the 28-year-old former boyfriend of Barnes’ older sister, was charged with first degree murder. Although he dated Barnes’ sister for nearly a decade and was considered apart of the family, police claim he was the last to see the teen alive and is responsible for her death.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
He was also the last person to see the girl alive in late December 2010. Now Baltimore prosecutors have charged him in the murder of the promising North Carolina teenager, whose nude body was found floating in the Susquehanna River one year ago this month.
In announcing the charge Thursday, authorities said very little about the case against Johnson, 28. He faces one count of first-degree murder, and officials declined to say how or where Phylicia was killed. Johnson was arrested late Wednesday outside his apartment after police said he tried to run from officers.
“This was an enormous collaborative effort by all agencies involved,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein said at a news conference, where he was flanked by city police and state troopers. “We hope it provides some measure of closure for the family.”
Johnson, who does not appear to have a criminal record, had been repeatedly questioned since Phylicia’s disappearance, but defense attorney Russell Neverdon said Johnson continues to deny any involvement. Neverdon briefly met with his client Thursday at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
Dubbed the “Baltimore’s Natalee Holloway case” police never gave up hope that they would find out what happened to Barnes. Unlike most cases involving missing black teens, law enforcement officials in Maryland were very vocal about Barnes’ disappearance, appealing to the media and community for help.
After going missing on December 28, 2010, Barnes’ body was found in April 2011 by workers at the Conowingo Damn. Although extremely tragic, her death has led to bill in the Maryland state house called “Phylicia’s law” which aims to strengthen coordination between community groups and local police when a child vanishes and require the state to publish a list of missing children and local volunteers.