BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The case captivated the nation: a teenager on vacation in Baltimore disappeared. Months later, her body was found floating in the Susquehanna River. Now new evidence could help the man accused of murdering Phylicia Barnes.

Monique Griego has the latest developments in the case.

According to the defense, a new witness claims to have seen Barnes after police say she was murdered.

The disappearance and murder of Phylicia Barnes rocked the Baltimore community and grabbed national headlines. The 16-year-old North Carolina teen vanished in December 2010 while visiting her sister in West Baltimore. Months later, her body was found in the Susquehanna River but it would be another year before an arrest was made.

This April, police charged her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Michael Johnson, with Barnes’ murder.

“They had who they wanted in their sights and that’s who they were focused on,” said defense attorney Russell Neverdon.

Neverdon says a new witness has come forward who says he saw Barnes alive in Cecil County days after she disappeared. That contradicts the prosecution’s claim that Johnson killed Barnes in Baltimore, then transported her body in a tub.

A neighbor reportedly saw him struggling to move a large container the day Barnes went missing.

“I think that’s a physical impossibility if, in fact, this gentleman is accurate with who he saw at the time he saw her,” Neverdon said.

WJZ did contact police but they were unable to comment because of the upcoming trial.

Johnson was arrested the day after the lead investigator on the case was suspended for tactics he took while looking for his own missing daughter.

“It’s so close in time that something doesn’t smell right,” defense attorney Ivan Bates said.

The defense is now asking the department to turn over Daniel Nicholson’s internal affairs documents to find out if there was any misconduct on their client’s case.

The witness also claims to have reached out to police with this information but says they never responded.

Johnson’s trial is set to begin on Jan. 22.


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