Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—There was bombshell testimony in the trial of the man accused of killing 16-year-old North Carolina honor student Phylicia Barnes.
Derek Valcourt explains jurors heard some of the most incriminating evidence against the defendant so far.
It came from a 36-year-old acquaintance of the defendant, who is being portrayed as a petty criminal, currently serving time in a Charles County detention center for theft. He testified the defendant showed him Barnes’ body and asked for help getting rid of it.
Defendant Michael Johnson sat shaking his head in disagreement as a man who goes by the name of James Lee or James McCray told jurors Johnson called him on Dec. 28, 2010 and asked him to come to the apartment, where he saw Barnes’ body wrapped in a blanket.
He testified “Johnson told me, ‘You won’t believe what happened.’ He said this girl was giving him mixed signals. He forced himself on her. After the sexual act, she wouldn’t stop crying, so he said he killed her.”
McCray said Johnson admitted to choking Barnes and asked, “Can you help me get rid of this body?”
McCray testified while he did not help move the body, he admitted to giving Johnson advice warning him to turn off his own phone and Barnes’ phone because police could use the GPS to track their movements.
McCray said the body was wrapped up and he could only see her hair.
He advised putting the body in a container but told Johnson not to bury it. He told him instead to dump Barnes in the ocean or another body of water so that the fish would eat her.
Police found Barnes’ naked body floating in the Harford County waters of the Susquehanna River four months after she disappeared.
Phylicia Barnes’ mother was in court and broke into tears hearing the testimony.
McCray says he was offered nothing from prosecutors in exchange for his testimony. Defense attorneys tried to attack his credibility. It will now be up to the jury to decide whether McCray should be believed.
Earlier in the day, the jury heard from the prosecution’s first witness: medical examiner Dr. Pamela Southall, who could only say that Barnes died of asphyxiation–a lack of oxygen.
Southall testified the body was moderately decomposed and there were no obvious signs of injury.
She said the findings were consistent that the body was submerged in the river in a container but could not conclusively determine whether Barnes had been strangled, smothered or drowned.
The jurors in the case did see photos of the body.