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Picture murder suspect as your dad, brother before judging, attorney pleads

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BALTIMORE. MD (WBTV) - The attorney for a man accused of killing a Union County teenager says before you judge, think of him as a member of your family.

Michael Johnson, 28, has been charged with the murder of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes.  Barnes went missing while visiting her half-sister in Baltimore in December 2010.  Her body was found four-months later in a Maryland river.

Johnson was arrested on Wednesday night after being indicted by a Baltimore City Grand Jury for first degree murder.

His attorney, Russell Neverdon, says Johnson has been targeted by police since the beginning of the investigation.

"Their theory has always been 'he was the last person to see her' and therefore had to be culpable in her disappearance and untimely death," Neverdon told WBTV on Friday. "It is not rocket science, it is not an equation, it's nothing done to a mathematical certainty. It's just something law enforcement uses as a guide."

Neverdon says Johnson has maintained his innocence through the entire investigation. He's been questioned multiple times and even provided a DNA sample for testing, according to Neverdon.

"Close your eyes and erase the picture that you see of Michael Johnson. Now open your eyes and see your father. See your brother. See your son," Neverdon plead. "And ask yourself 'Are you that quick to rush to judgment for someone who tells you I didn't do anything'?"

Neverdon was arrested outside of his home on Wednesday night, as he was leaving to go to work. That's where Neverdon claims Johnson was assaulted by authorities during the arrest.

"He's very distraught, he's very upset," Neverdon said about Johnson "Of course he's scared."

Photos: Phylicia Barnes

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