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MONROE, NC (WBTV) - Police in Maryland say they are investigating the death of a teen girl from Union County as a homicide.
The body of Phylicia Barnes, 17, was found unclothed in Maryland's Susquehanna River on April 20, nearly 4 months after she vanished from her half-sister's northwest Baltimore apartment three days after Christmas.
On Wednesday, Maryland State Police, along with officers with the Baltimore Police Department released a statement saying an autopsy by the Medical Examiner's office ruled Barnes' death a homicide.
While officers say they have determined her cause of death, they are "not releasing that information because it is an important part of the ongoing investigation. To release a cause of death at this time could jeopardize the investigation by revealing information known only to the person or persons responsible for her death."
The Monroe honor student's body was found at the same time that police found the body of 53-year-old Darryl Harper, of Virginia, just 4 miles away.
Maryland State Police investigators are continuing to review information concerning Darryl Harper. However, neither they nor Baltimore Police homicide detectives have found anything that would connect him to Phylicia Barnes or her disappearance.
It was not immediately clear what led Harper may be connected to Barnes, 17, the honor student who went missing December 28.
Maryland State Police are leading the death investigation, using 10 detectives to assist Baltimore Police on their case, Shipley said. "This case is a top priority," he said.
Although Phylicia's body has been found, there are still no charges in the case. But police said finding Phylicia's body could be a tremendous help in bringing about justice in the case.
"Without it, it would have been an incredibly difficult case, but now it gives investigators a real opportunity," Baltimore police commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said at a press conference two weeks ago.
Police continue to urge anyone with information regarding the murder of Phylicia Barnes to contact them immediately. Persons with information may call the TIPS Line that has been established since Barnes disappeared at 1-855-223-0033. Or, they can call the Maryland State Police duty officer at 410-653-4200. Calls may be kept confidential.