BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Opening statements and testimony began Friday in the trial of a man charged with killing honors student Phylicia Barnes. Deena Barnes, Phylicia’s older sister and the defendant’s ex-girlfriend, testified for the state Monday.
Derek Valcourt has the latest.
Deena Barnes wiped away tears as jurors watched a 16-minute-long cell phone video of her, her ex-boyfriend/defendant Michael Johnson, her murdered 16-year-old sister Phylicia, and Johnson’s younger teenage brother — all naked, engaged in sex acts as recorded by one of Johnson’s male cousins months before Phylicia Barnes disappeared.
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 Friday, the prosecution linked that disappearance and death to 28-year-old Michael Johnson, Deena Barnes’ former boyfriend. He was the last person to see her alive.
On Monday, Deena described a lot of drinking was going on leading up to Phylicia Barnes’ disappearance.
The jury saw evidence that included 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 sex tape was played for the jury only on Monday. The monitors were turned so the media could not see the tape. They could only hear the audio, which contained lots of kissing sounds, giggling and crude comments.
Deena Barnes testified she allowed her underage sister to consume enough alcohol to become intoxicated earlier that night and that video was recorded after the group left her apartment on a dare to go late-night streaking near an area school.
She told jurors she later saw Johnson in the bathroom wiping something off of Phylicia’s knee and became uncomfortable when she saw him “reach as if he was going to touch her vagina.”
Deena said the teenager only laughed and pushed his hand away. Deena told jurors she confronted Johnson, who denied attempting to touch the teen.
The jury heard testimony that Johnson was seen struggling with a heavy container the day of the disappearance.
Deena Barnes told jurors that while she was at her job on the day Phylicia disappeared, Johnson visited Phylicia at the apartment where they were staying. She says Johnson chose not to go to work and later that day he was acting nervous.
Deena Barnes told jurors a 35 gallon plastic storage container went missing from her apartment on the day Phylicia disappeared. Prosecutors will try to prove that’s how Johnson moved the body.
Defense attorneys are trying to paint a picture of Deena Barnes as an irresponsible older sister who allowed her younger sibling to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and engage in sex acts with boys.
Court started late Monday when one of the jurors did not show up and had to be replaced by an alternate.