Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The family of murdered teenager Phylicia Barnes is working to ensure she didn’t die in vain. They’re pushing for a new Maryland law to improve searches.
Mike Hellgren has more on how it could end heartache for hundreds of families.
The latest journey for Phylicia Barnes’ loved ones in their quest for justice is to Annapolis.
“We will always never forget Phylicia,” said her father, Russell Barnes.
Her dad is pushing for what’s being called Phylicia’s Law. It would create mandatory guidelines in searches for missing children, focusing on the first few moments after they disappear.
Barnes’ case did not immediately get attention after family members reported her missing while visiting relatives in Baltimore in December 2010. Authorities conducted exhaustive searches and months later found her murdered and floating in the Susquehanna River.
“We’re still living a nightmare,” Russell Barnes said. “We want to make sure other families do not go through what we’ve been through.”
“When she was first reported missing, I believe if someone would have come and the search would have started, then all of this could have been avoided,” said her cousin, Alisia Chamberlain.
Under Phylicia’s Law, there would be no mandatory period before beginning an investigation, no police rules discouraging filing an immediate report and state police would get involved if the child is not located within 24 hours.
“We’ve been working through what we have to do,” said Delegate Jill Carter.
“We plan to permanently change the way the state searches for and protects children,” said missing persons’ advocate Don L. Rondeau.
“This law will apply to far more children than the Amber Alert,” said Children’s Rights Council President Emeritus David Levy.
As for Barnes, while her body has been found, her family says there are no new leads on tracking down her killer. They hope her legacy will be helping others avoid the same fate.
“We will continue to fight until justice is served for her,” Chamberlain said.
The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on Phylicia’s Law throughout the afternoon Wednesday. Advocates hope it passes during this legislative session.