Phylicia Barnes' family and friends react to arrest

UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Students arrived at Union Academy in Monroe this morning with a sense of relief.

"We're just glad that they made an arrest," says principal Lawrence Sullivan.

But that feeling is, of course, bittersweet because nothing can bring back Phylicia Barnes.

The 16-year-old Barnes was visiting Baltimore with family when she went missing December 28, 2010.  Baltimore Police say Michael Johnson, 28, was arrested for the murder of the Union Academy honor student.

Johnson is the former boyfriend of Phylicia's older sister. Workers at the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River discovered the teen's body the following April.

"Phylicia was taken from us last year but we are still going to be dealing with this as a family, as a community and as a school," he says. "We just hope there's some closure for her family."

For a year and a half, Phylicia's father, Russell Barnes, has been looking for answers, traveling to Charlotte and Baltimore from his home in Atlanta, where we found him Thursday.

"It was definitely an exciting call and a long overdue call for the family," he says. "The real things now are the prosecution, the answers, the questions that have to be raised, and we want to make sure Burnstein will do all he has to do to prosecute."

At a press conference in Baltimore, police seemed confident. But other family members who spoke there said they've wanted this arrest for a long time.

"We suspected Michael Johnson from the very beginning," said Phylicia's uncle, Harry Watson.

And they had a message for him.

"Tell the truth," Watson said. "Tell the truth, and give Phylicia's family some type of closure."

Johnson, charged with first degree murder, is being held in the Baltimore City Jail without bond.

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