BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Right now, police are working to catch a killer and solve one of the highest-profile cases in Maryland: the murder of Phylicia Barnes.  The medical examiner has now ruled her death a homicide.

Mike Hellgren has new insight from a criminologist.

The discovery of her body was critical and police have learned so much from it. But it’s what they’re not revealing that’s raising questions.

The mystery of Phylicia Barnes’ death has only deepened since police found her body floating in the Susquehanna River last month.

The medical examiner just revealed she was murdered and they know how she died. But police are keeping that information secret for now.

Why won’t they reveal the cause of death? Police say it could jeopardize the investigation, and criminologist Jeffrey Ian Ross agrees.

“They want to limit the amount of information out there to keep control of the kinds of tips they get in and also to rule out possible suspects,” Ross said.

Police tell WJZ they are interviewing new people and re-interviewing those close to Barnes, and they are not limiting their investigation to Maryland.

The state police superintendent said there were no signs of a sexual assault or major wounds on the body.

“The body could’ve been there for months, particularly in the ice, in the cold. And that will have an effect on decomposition and identifying some of the issues connected to cause of death,” Ross said.

So how important was finding the body? Ross says it’s key to finding the killer.

“Obtaining the body and subjecting it to forensic investigation will open up a number of leads that the police had not considered before,” Ross said.

The honor student was visiting her sister in Northwest Baltimore around Christmas when she vanished–investigators say she didn’t leave a shred of evidence behind. Her disappearance gained national attention and became one of the most prominent missing person’s cases in Baltimore history.

So what’s next? For police, it’s catching a killer. For Phylicia’s family, it’s getting closure.

“I can’t express how special she is.  I’m not going to use the word was because she’s still special,” said her mother Janice Sallis.

City and state police are working together on this, and they’re also getting assistance from the FBI.

There will be a local memorial service for Barnes on May 14 at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore. Barnes’ body has been released to her loved ones. Her funeral will be Saturday in Georgia.

Comments (15)
  1. Keith says:


  2. Angel says:

    We prayed for GOD to bring Phylicia Home and He did. Now just think the killer or killers are now going to be brought to Justice. No matter what you do in life, GOD will have the last word and this goes for each and everyone of US!!!

  3. Darryl says:

    I am so glad that Ms. Janice has her Daughter (Phylicia Simone Barnes), so that her mind and soul, can now be at peace!!! I will definitely watch for the Memorial Service on the internet!!

  4. Sarita Miles says:

    My heart hurts so bad for phylica and her mother and i do not know phylica but what happend to her leaves me nub. She is with the greatest person in the world now. And thats God almighty!!!!! R I P Ms Phylica Barnes

  5. Kell says:

    The sisters boyfriend needs to confess he owes the family that much… Hes the last person to c her alive !!!!!!!!!wow guilty guilty guilty.

    1. ratm33 says:

      you have no clue what you are talking about.

      1. uneasy feeling about stepfamily says:

        its just odd that he was to last to c her alvive so yes he is hiding something

      2. lilone says:

        @ratm33 u act like u know who commited this crimes

  6. Kell says:

    The sisters boyfriend should b drop in the river just as she was .what gves people the right to determine who lives n who dies ????? An eye for a eye n this case death by stoneing is the right punshiment for the sob

  7. outkasts says:

    Sounds like she overdosed on drugs at that party and was dumped in the river

  8. Ronald Lee Norman says:

    And it should be kept a secret until the investigation is over. May she rest in peace

  9. gg says:

    we live in a world where people have no regard for life anymore and that is very scary!!! This case will be solved, the person or persons who know what happened will NOT be able to keep quiet!! the truth always comes out!!!! I think what happened was, either she saw something that someone did not want her to see or it was a drug overdose!!!! Either way the Barnes family will get justice!!!

  10. pigeon says:

    When the individual(s) who did this dasterly deed are arrested, found guilty and put behind bars, how many people are going to be able to say “I told you so”? And how many people are actually going to be shocked when ID’s and arrests are made?
    Get this over quickly and let the child and her family have what little peace they can salvage. God be with them.

  11. vanessa says:

    There is nothing covered that shall not be reveal, nor anything then hidden that shall not come abroad. God knows who took the life of Phylica Barnes, and he will give the FBI, and everyone involve in the case to catch a killer or killers and bring them to justice, but just think they have to face God on judgement day. My heart goes out to the mother, may God comfort her heart, mind and soul.

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