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Prosecutors Reveal Evidence Against Man Charged For Phylicia Barnes’ Murder

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Barnes Michael Johnson
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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– There are chilling details on how police say Michael Johnson killed Phylicia Barnes and then moved her body. The revelations came Friday at Johnson’s bail hearing.

Mike Hellgren digs into the allegations.

Major developments in the case after the indictment against Michael Johnson was unsealed. Prosecutors believe Johnson likely strangled Phylicia Barnes and dumped her body into a plastic tub. And it all happened at her sister’s apartment in Northwest Baltimore.

For the first time, prosecutors reveal the evidence against Michael Johnson for the murder of Phylicia Barnes. He is the ex-boyfriend of Barnes’ sister accused of killing the 16-year-old while she was visiting her sister in December 2010.

WJZ has learned Johnson texted and called Barnes 500 times during a three-month period before the visit. And she confided in her sister, “She didn’t like the way he looked at her” and that “He made her feel uncomfortable.”

Johnson, the last person to see Barnes alive, was seen struggling to carry a 35-gallon container from the apartment moments after she disappeared.

Prosecutors say that’s large enough to fit her body.

“And what was really surprising was the number of times he mentioned he had contact with my little cousin. I mean, it was hard, hard for me to accept and to even think that a man of his age would be in contact with my little cousin, the way she was,” Harry Watson, Barnes’ cousin, said.

Another big development was Johnson’s intercepted phone calls where he spoke of fleeing to another country he could not be extradited.

“I feel like everything is going to hit the fan” Johnson said in one of those phone calls. “I feel like I should pack up some stuff and leave. Maybe leave the country. I should go to Brazil. If I started a new life, would they be able to arrest me?”

“I don’t blame him for it,” Brendon Meade, Johnson’s defense attorney, said. “He’s scared. “He’s never dealt with the criminal justice system a day in his life. And being arrested and charged with this is a travesty.”

Johnson dated Barnes’ sister for 10 years and was in the process of moving out of the apartment when Phylicia disappeared. Barnes’ body was found months later, floating in the Susquehanna River. The cause of death: asphyxiation.

Prosecutors they have video of Johnson buying that plastic tub at a Wal-Mart. One question was not answered on Friday involving motive: If Johnson did indeed kill Phylicia Barnes, why did he do it?

His bail was denied.

The judge called Johnson a potential threat to society, especially to people he is close.

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