Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Closing arguments have ended in the Phylicia Barnes murder trial. Now the fate of her accused killer Michael Johnson is in the hands of a jury.
Mike Hellgren has been in court all day listening to closing arguments.
The jurors started deliberating Monday afternoon and will pick up where they left off Tuesday morning.
In closing arguments, Johnson’s defense slammed the police investigation for lack of physical evidence that Johnson killed Barnes. They called it ridiculous in a last pitch to jurors.
Johnson was the last person to see Barnes alive in her older sister Deena’s apartment in Northwest Baltimore before the teenager—who was visiting from North Carolina on holiday break–disappeared.
The case became the largest missing person’s investigation in Baltimore City history.
Barnes’ body was found four months later floating in the Susquehanna River.
The defense told the jury: “We still don’t know how she died or even who is responsible for it. What you’ve really got is a horrible, horrible case.”
Johnson was dating Barnes’ sister at the time.
Prosecutors claim he then became sexually attracted to the teenager, went to her sister’s apartment, raped her, and when she became upset, strangled her, and then dumped her body in a plastic tub.
The lead prosecutor said: “She did not leave that apartment. She did not let in some stranger who killed her. It doesn’t make any sense. He killed her.”
The defense argued Barnes may have run away and drowned. The defense tried to cast suspicion on her sister, who they claim was jealous.
For Barnes’ father, who spoke to WJZ last year, finding closure is critical.
“For my daughter to be found in a body of water in where I seen her at, where I seen her body at, no human should ever be disposed of like that,” said Russell Barnes, father. “For her to rest properly, we have to make sure that justice is served.”
The defense pointed out that the evidence is circumstantial.
Jurors must decide whether Phylicia Barnes’ death was first- or second-degree murder or whether Johnson is not guilty at all.
The judge expressed to jurors that the Ravens Super Bowl celebration parade on Tuesday may be a distraction for them. But the jurors did not want a break and decided to resume deliberations Tuesday morning.