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Police Are Keeping How Phylicia Barnes Died Secret

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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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.

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