Michael Johnson found guilty in murder of Phylicia Barnes - | WBTV Charlotte

Michael Johnson found guilty in murder of Phylicia Barnes

Charlotte, NC/Baltimore, MD (WBTV) -

Wednesday, a Baltimore jury found Michael Johnson guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Union County teen Phylicia Barnes.

The Monroe teenager was staying with her half-sister Deena Barnes in Baltimore when she disappeared in December 2010. Her body was found four months later in the Susquehanna River, near Baltimore.

Johnson is Deena's ex-boyfriend, and investigators say he was the last known person to see the 16-year-old Honors student alive.

Phylicia's dad, Russell Barnes spoke after the verdict. He said, "It won't bring Phylicia back, but it brings a little closure."

Russell Barnes also said he hopes Johnson never spends another day outside of a jail cell.

"Never step outside of there. Stay there. You know. We don't need people like this in our society among our kids."

Johnson's attorney, Russell Neverdon, says his client can't believe it, "He's in shock. He's in disbelief."

Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein seemed pleased with the verdict. "I am extremely proud of the prosecutors in this case who did a superb job, in my judgment, of marshalling the evidence."

Tuesday, the jury asked to review some of the video evidence against Johnson.

Prosecutors spent several days laying out their evidence last week. They called 30 witnesses to the stand. The defense began presenting its case Monday morning but only called upon one witness.

In closing arguments, Johnson's defense attorney told the jury: "We still don't know how she died or even who's responsible for it. What you've really got is a horrible, horrible case."

Prosecutors claim Johnson was sexually attracted to Barnes. They say he visited the apartment of Barnes sister, raped the teen and then strangled her when she became upset.

During the trial, WBTV's CBS affiliate WJZ in Baltimore reports that Deena Barnes talked about the night a sexually charged cell phone video was made involving Deena, Phylicia, Johnson and his younger brother.

The jury was shown the video, but the monitors were turned away so reporters could not see it. They could hear the audio.

Deena wiped away tears as she described allowing Phylicia to drink alcohol and get naked. She said the group had planned to go streaking at a nearby high school.

Prosecutors said Johnson is scene looking at Phylicia and they call that night a turning point as his interest in the honors student changed.

Deena Barnes said Johnson stopped by her Baltimore apartment the day Phylicia disappeared. Deena said she was at work, and got worried when she did not hear from her sister. She said Johnson seemed nervous that day.

The Baltimore Sun also reported a twist in the trial on its first day last week. Prosecutors say Johnson called another man to the apartment the day Phylicia was killed, showed the man Phylicia's body and asked for advice on what to do.

Prosecutors attribute this information to a petty thief named James McCray.

Johnson's defense calls McCray and "jailhouse snitch" who "can't tell Michael Johnson from Michael Jordan".

Johnson and Deena were involved in a romantic relationship for ten years before Phylicia disappeared.

Johnson was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in April 2012.

At a bail hearing, prosecutors said Johnson asphyxiated Phylicia in her half-sister's apartment, and then moved her body to a 35-gallon plastic tub. Witnesses told investigators – on the day Barnes disappeared, they saw Johnson with a 35-gallon blue storage bin, sweating profusely. 

Also at the bail hearing, prosecutors claimed Phylicia told a relative Johnson made her "uncomfortable".

The state told the judge, Johnson exchanged more than 500 text messages with Barnes during the summer of 2010.

Between the bail hearing and the trial, little came to light about the case. A gag order was issued, keeping the lawyers involved from speaking.

In 2011, Johnson's attorney told WBTV police had rushed 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," Attorney Russell Neverdon told WBTV.

Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said that's not so – "Based on a complete and thorough investigation, we believe that we've got the right guy".

Meanwhile, Phylicia's mother has accused half-sister Deena of condoning alcohol use, and allowing men to drop by her apartment.

Through it all, Johnson has maintained his innocence.

Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.

Photos: Phylicia Barnes

Photo gallery of Phylicia Barnes More>>

Timeline of Phylicia Barnes case


December 28, 2010 - Phylicia Barnes, 16, reported missing from Baltimore March 7, 2011 - Phylicia's sister sought restraining order against Michael Johnson April 20, 2011 - Phylicia Barnes' body found More>>

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