By Kimberly Eiten

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Eight years after Phylicia Barnes’ murder, experts can’t say exactly how she died.

The attorneys defending her accused killer, Michael Johnson, are using unanswered questions to build their case.

Johnson, the ex-boyfriend of Barnes’ half sister, was the last person to see Phylicia alive.

Barnes was a 16-year-old girl from North Carolina who disappeared while visiting her half-sisters in Baltimore around Christmas in 2010. Her body was eventually discovered floating in the Susquehana River.

Johnson was convicted once before, but a judge later tossed the ruling. Johnson’s second time in the courtroom ended in mistrial.

Thursday, a forensic pathologist and the medical examiner who both examined Barnes’ body, testified.

The State is trying to use their expert testimony to backup up the theory that Johnson killed the teen and dumped her body in water, while the defense argues there isn’t enough hard evidence to prove it.

Former Maryland Delegate Jill Carter, who advocated for a new law named after Barnes, was in attendance Thursday.

“Phylicia Barnes really resonated with me because of her brightness and her youth and all of the promise that was stamped out,” Carter said.

She hugged Phylicia’s father, Russell Barnes, after listening to hours of testimony. He has not been in the courtroom during the trial, but he’s been in the courthouse listening from wherever he can.

“As a family, we know, so we gonna stay strong with it. Keep our faith–right there at it,” he said. “So, we know and there’s no doubt in our mind. So–gonna stay strong.”

Prosecutors are still calling their witnesses as the trial enters its ninth day.

Attorneys initially said the trial could go on for weeks and it’s on pace to do at least that.

Attorneys from both sides are under a gag order and witnessed have been told not to share their testimony.

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