Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The killing of teenager Phylicia Barnes made worldwide headlines. The high-profile trial of her sister’s boyfriend for the crime starts Tuesday.
Mike Hellgren went back to the Northwest Baltimore neighborhood where she was last seen alive and tells us what to expect in the courtroom.
A lot of attention will be focused on a sex video that prosecutors say involved Barnes and her accused killer and new insight into the motive: why would anyone want to kill the young honor student?
Sixteen-year-old Phylicia Barnes disappeared more than two years ago without a trace, launching the largest search for a missing person in Baltimore history until her naked body was found floating in the Susquehanna River.
Police had long suspected Michael Johnson, the 28-year-old former boyfriend of Barnes’ sister. They say he was the last person to see her alive–but as his lawyer said, that doesn’t make him guilty.
“Baltimore City, they made their promise. They said, we know–we believe you’re the person and we’re going to get you,” said Johnson’s lawyer, Russell Neverdon.
Some of the prosecution’s strongest evidence is a neighbor who says he saw Johnson struggling to carry a 35-gallon tub from the apartment. They believe that tub contained Barnes’ body.
Prosecutors plan to play a video they say shows Barnes and Johnson, along with her sister and his brother, engaged in sexual activity. They say Barnes’ accused killer texted and called her at least 500 times in the months before her disappearance and that in intercepted phone calls after her death, they say he spoke of fleeing to Brazil, where he could not be extradited to face murder charges.
“I would hope that he would say what he had in that container, tell the truth about what happened to Phylicia Barnes,” said Harry Watson, Barnes’ cousin.
Back at the apartment complex off Reisterstown Road where Barnes initially disappeared, there’s hope justice will prevail.
“Definitely for the family. I think the family definitely needs to rest. They need to find out what’s going on,” said Veronica Delrio. “She was so young. That’s really the sad thing about it.”
Barnes was visiting from North Carolina, where she lived. She planned to attend Towson University.