BALTIMORE - A Baltimore man has been indicted on a murder charge in the killing of a North Carolina teenager missing for months before her body was found in a river, prosecutors said Thursday.
Michael Johnson, 28, was indicted on a sole count of first-degree murder in the death of Phylicia Barnes, 16, of Monroe, N.C., Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein announced.
"It's been a long day coming. It's a bittersweet day," said Phylicia's father, Russell Barnes. "I can rest better and maybe Phylicia can rest a whole lot better."
When Phylicia Barnes disappeared, Johnson had been breaking up with the teen's older half-sister, Deena, after dating for about 10 years, Russell Barnes said. The family had trusted Johnson - the last person to see Phylicia alive - but he acted suspiciously after the girl disappeared, avoiding people and phone calls, Russell Barnes said.
Johnson maintained his innocence when he spoke to his attorney Russell Neverdon at Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center on Thursday.
"He said he had absolutely nothing to do with anything inappropriate or misgivings towards Phylicia that resulted in her disappearance and the untimeliness of her death," Neverdon said. He believes investigators have a circumstantial case against his client and said they even told Johnson during one of several interviews that it was just a matter of time before they got him.
Phylicia was visiting her older half-siblings in Baltimore over the Christmas holidays when she disappeared from her sister's apartment in northwest Baltimore on Dec. 28, 2010. Baltimore police soon alerted local media, saying her disappearance was unusual because she had no history of disputes with her family or trouble with the law.
She was an honor student at Union Academy, a public charter school in Monroe, and she was on track to graduate early and had already been accepted to several colleges. She had reconnected with her half-siblings on Facebook, and she traveled to Baltimore several times to visit them. Her father said the sisters even talked about living together while the teen attended Towson University.