Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Opening statements began Friday in the trial of a man charged with killing honors student Phylicia Barnes.
Alex DeMetrick has details of the trial’s first day.
Both sides laid out their strategy in opening statements in this murder trial.
North Carolina resident Phylicia Barnes was visiting her older sister Deena Barnes in Baltimore in December 2010 when she vanished. A major search was launched, ending four months later when her nude body was found in the Susquehanna River.
In opening statements in court, the prosecution linked that disappearance and death to 18-year-old Michael Johnson, Deena Barnes’ former boyfriend.
The jury will see evidence that includes hundreds of calls and text messages between Johnson and Phylicia Barnes, a sex video of Deena Barnes and Johnson, as well as one of Phylicia and Johnson’s brother.
The jury will also hear testimony Johnson was seen struggling with a heavy container the day of the disappearance.
Johnson’s defense team arrived to challenge the state’s case.
Because of a gag order, they can’t talk now and spoke to WJZ earlier.
“We don’t know her cause of death. We know what’s been suggested, but we have nothing medically, scientifically identified as what the cause of death is, and there still lies a mystery,” said Russell Neverdon, defense attorney.
Johnson’s lawyers say there is no DNA evidence linking their client to the death, and the container Johnson was carrying had belongings because he was moving out of Deena Barnes’ apartment.
In a stunning revelation, prosecutors said someone saw Phylicia Barnes’ body in the apartment.
That prosecution witness is James McCray, described by the state as a petty criminal and the defense as a jailhouse snitch and liar.
McCrea is an acquaintance of Johnson’s who alleges Johnson showed him Phylicia Barnes’ body and asked for advice on what to do with it.
The trial resumes with testimony on Monday.