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Testimonies & Emotions Heat Up In Phylicia Barnes Murder Trial

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Phylicia Barnes
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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A tense moment during the trial of the man accused of murdering honor student Phylicia Barnes.

Derek Valcourt has more on the harsh warning the judge gave to Phylicia Barnes’ father and stepfather.

The two men apparently had some words between them and that’s when the judge threatened to throw them both in jail.

It’s unclear what happened between Phylicia Barnes’ father, Russell, and her stepfather, but Judge Al Nance–known for his stern courtroom demeanor–called the two men up to the bench and admonished them.

“This is about Phylicia,” he said. “This is about Phylicia and if it happens again I’ll throw you both in jail.”

The warning took just one minute out of the trial of Michael Johnson, the man accused of killing the 16-year-old North Carolina girl who went missing in December 2010 after visiting her sister’s apartment.

Detective William Simmons, who helped lead the search for Barnes, took the stand to tell jurors about exhaustive city police efforts to find Phylicia. Detectives canvassed neighborhoods and spent days searching places like Patapsco State Park. It was four months before Phylicia’s naked body was found in the Harford County waters of the Susquehanna River.

Late Tuesday, the jury heard an audio recording of a police interview with the defendant, Michael Johnson, just days after Phylicia disappeared. He acknowledged he was the last known person to see her alive. He told police when he left her, she was asleep on her sister’s couch.

Also Tuesday, jurors heard brief testimony from the defendant’s two brothers and cousin, who talked about their relationships with Phylicia and testimony from the DNR officer who recovered Phylicia’s body from the river.

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