BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The mystery surrounding what happened to North Carolina high school student Phylicia Barnes grows deeper. Police recovered her body. Now the focus shifts to figuring out how she died.
Mike Hellgren has more on the investigation.
At this point, police are not saying that she was murdered. They say she could’ve been in the Susquehanna River for months, and they needed dental records to identify her.
The search for Phylicia Barnes, 17, ended near the Conowingo Dam. Police found her naked. They say she showed no outward signs of trauma.
“When you put a body in a cold body of water, it will stay a pretty much intact for a long period of time,” said Col. Terrence Sheridan, Maryland State Police.
Investigators have not ruled out an accident or foul play and pledge to find out what happened and bring closure to the family of this missing honor student.
“This is the worst possible news you could tell a mother, and it’s the last bit of news they ever wanted to hear,” said Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, Baltimore City Police.
The first phase of the investigation lasted almost four months and became one of the biggest missing persons cases in Baltimore history, involving more than half the homicide squad.
“We’re now at stage one of a new phase of the investigation,” Bealefeld said. “So, there’s a lot of work now that needs to be done.”
Police say they don’t know how Barnes got so far—45 miles from where she first vanished.
They also don’t know the identification of another man found with her in the raging waters near the Conowingo Dam.
“His cause and manner of death has not been determined, but the medical examiner has indicated that it is a black male, 6’4”, 240 pounds,” Sheridan said.
“All of us since that fateful day in December had been praying and hopeful for a different outcome,” Bealefeld said.
Barnes has been found, but the mystery surrounding her disappearance has only deepened.
“If someone is responsible for the death of these people, we want to make sure we have all the evidence we can,” Sheridan said.
The forensics, the testing of these bodies, could take weeks to complete. That is information that is critical in solving this case.
Kelly McPherson continues our complete coverage with stunned reaction from friends and family.
As recently as two weeks ago, volunteers and police have been looking for Phylicia Barnes.
From the beginning, her family told WJZ they feared the worst.
“I think somebody might have taken her,” her half-sister said nearly four months ago.
“This isn’t a runaway; this isn’t a child that’s having a bad day,” her father, Russell Barnes, said then.
Four months later, police have discovered and identified the North Carolina teen’s body.
“It’s going to be hard to realize that she’s not here with us anymore,” said her friend Chelsea Carter, of Monroe, N.C.
Her half-sister’s Northwest Baltimore neighborhood has mixed emotions.
“My heart is sad. This is a sad situation,” said one neighbor.
“After three months… I can’t really say much. I just pray for the family,” said another.
People who live in Northwest Baltimore where Phylicia was last seen alive have grown attached to the teen over the last four months.
“Phylicia was a young girl, and she has not seen life or been anywhere at the age of 16,” said Elsie Jones.
And they’re reminded of their own teenage children.
“She travels a lot by herself, and I did become more protective—me and her father–because of what happened,” said Ursula Dorsey. “It hit really close to home.”
After expressing their feelings of relief, now neighbors are wondering about that other body that was found in the river and who did this to Barnes.
Stay with WJZ.COM for continuing coverage of this investigation.