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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
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
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
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
In 2011, Johnson's attorney told WBTV police had rushed the
"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.
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 foundMore>>