Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—There’s startling new information in the Phylicia Barnes murder investigation. FBI agents pointed to a child pornography investigation as they tried to gain access to Barnes’ Facebook and email accounts.
Derek Valcourt has more on the developments.
Authorities won’t comment on the ongoing investigation, but federal court documents hint at this bizarre twist in the still unsolved murder case.
Phylicia Barnes, 16, disappeared in late December while visiting her sister in Northwest Baltimore.
The case sparked a massive search for the North Carolina native that ended in April when her naked body was found in the Susquehanna River.
Police investigators labeled it a murder but have refused to say how she was killed.
“They believe it’s important to the integrity of the investigation to withhold that information right now,” said Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police.
Now U.S. District Court documents reveal detectives are using a child pornography investigation to gain access to email accounts and Facebook accounts linked to Barnes and others.
In these applications for search warrants obtained by WJZ’s media partner, the Baltimore Sun, authorities ask to search four Facebook accounts, six separate Yahoo! email accounts– including two with Phylicia’s name– and one America Online email account for evidence of crimes, including sexual exploitation of children and distribution and possession of child pornography.
Affidavits related to the case remain sealed but Phylicia Barnes’ father Russell Barnes and her brother Bryan Barnes both told WJZ they had been aware of the search warrants for months and said the warrants were all part of a thorough investigation by police to find who killed Phylicia.
As her family waits for justice, they are “trying to figure out what happened and why it happened and who did it and getting that person behind bars so it won’t happen to anybody else,” said Bryan Barnes.
The applications for search warrants were filed back on May 10.
No word yet from investigators if those email and Facebook accounts provided any useful information.
You can read more about this case in Friday morning’s edition of the Baltimore Sun.