UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The last known person to see high school honor student Phylicia Barnes alive, claims he is no killer. Michael Johnson, 27, speaking through his attorney Russell A. Neverdon, Sr., said when he last saw Barnes, she was alive -- on the phone talking about possibly getting something to eat, the lawyer told WBTV.com Wednesday.
"They thought she met up with a friend and was probably hanging out for a day or two and just would show up, that's what he had believed," Neverdon said by phone from Baltimore.
He said his client feels like a victim because of pressure from police. Baltimore Police detectives, who initially led the search for Barnes, met with Johnson on at least 8 different occasions. Sometimes the detectives would pull him out of work, Neverdon said.
From the day Barnes, 16, disappeared, Neverdon claims, police have been focused solely on his client. "This is a situation where they believe this was an open and shut, slam dunk case; it had to be the obvious and that's where they based and bent all of their efforts and energy."
Baltimore Police Spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi has previously said anyone with access to the apartment where the teen was last seen was considered a person of interest in the case, but no one has ever been officially named a suspect.
While police were searching for Barnes, Johnson was in court at one point to answer for a restraining order filed by Barnes' older half-sister Deena, who is also Johnson's ex-girlfriend.
Deena Barnes told the court Johnson had been reaching out to her through e-mail and Facebook, even after police told him not to, court records obtained by WBTV.com show.
"I am fearful and unsure of what may happen because I am ignoring his unwanted contact," she wrote, "I am afraid that he or someone he knows may look for me."
Maryland District Court Judge Shannon Avery ultimately denied the request to extend the order.
"Michael has moved on, Michael has a girlfriend; that was part of their break-up," the attorney said, "so I'm not sure what the basis was," he added.
Six weeks after the hearing, crews working on the Conowingo Dam in Harford County, Maryland, found the teen's body floating in the Susquehanna River 50 miles from her sister's apartment.
Police, Neverdon said, were still focused on his client. The last conversation Johnson had with detectives left him feeling like he was and still is their only focus.
When asked if Michael Johnson had anything to do with the teen's disappearance or death, Neverdon replied, "Nope. Unequivocally and categorically no."