Reporting Monique Griego
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A North Carolina teen disappears in Baltimore. Now 16 months later, there’s a break in the case. The last person to see her alive is charged with killing her.
Monique Griego has the stunning conclusion to an investigation that made national headlines.
Michael Johnson was the last person to see teenage honor student Phylicia Barnes alive. Now, he’s charged with her murder.
Johnson dated Phylicia Barnes’ sister for years and was so close to Barnes, he considered her like his own sister.
His stunning indictment comes 16 months after Phylicia Barnes vanished while visiting her sister in Northwest Baltimore, generating nationwide attention and a search that involved most of Baltimore’s homicide unit.
Her father reacted strongly to the arrest.
“It’s still a shock to me that Phylicia’s gone, that she has been murdered,” Russell Barnes said. “And it’s a shock to me that an arrest is made and it has to be Michael Johnson.”
“I promised Phylicia’s mother that there would not be a day go by that I would not do something that would one day lead to the arrest of the person who murdered her daughter,” Harry Watson, Phylicia Barnes’ cousin, said.
The indictment is sealed and the top prosecutor was tight-lipped about details surrounding the case, including why they arrested Johnson now and the motive for the killing.
“We believe that we’ve got the right guy,” Gregg Bernstein, the Baltimore City state’s attorney, said. “We hope that it provides some measure of closure. Now we have to move forward with the trial.”
Investigators interviewed Johnson repeatedly– suspecting him from the start– even taking DNA samples. His lawyer says he knows of no new evidence in the case.
“Baltimore City, they made their promise. They said, ‘We believe that you’re the person and we’re going to get you,’” Russell Neverdon, Johnson’s defense attorney, said.
Right now, those close to Phylicia Barnes yearn for justice and hope this arrest brings them closure.
“Justice is to make sure Michael Johnson is found guilty,” Russell Barnes said.
Johnson now has a new girlfriend and a child. His lawyer says he will vigorously fight the charge in court.
Johnson’s attorney also questions the timing of the arrest, after the lead detective in the Barnes case was suspended last week in another matter.