BALTIMORE (Lavendrick Smith/Charlotte Observer) - A Maryland judge has acquitted the man accused of killing Phylicia Barnes, a Monroe teen whose 2010 disappearance and murder in Baltimore rocked the Charlotte region.
The acquittal on Friday marks the third time that prosecutors were unable to convict Michael Johnson, the man accused of Barnes' death, multiple media outlets reported.
It appears that this was Johnson's last trial in the case.
Baltimore's State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby expressed disappointment in Friday's acquittal, in a statement published by Baltimore TV station WJZ.
"We believed, based in the evidence presented to us, that we were pursuing the individual responsible for her murder." Mosby said in her statement. "But the justice system has run its course, and we must now respect the court's decision."
Barnes was visiting her half-sister in Baltimore for Christmas in 2010, when she went missing. Her naked body was found four months later.
Johnson, who dated Barnes' half-sister and was reportedly the last person to see the teen alive, had stood trial twice before in the case.
He was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury in 2013, but a judge declared a mistrial after determining key information was withheld. Johnson was then acquitted by a judge.
An appeals court ruled last year that the judge was wrong to acquit Johnson in 2015, prompting the third trial.
Circuit Judge Charles Peters acquitted Johnson after questioning the circumstantial evidence prosecutors theorized, The Baltimore Sun reported.
A neighbor had seen Johnson moving a storage container that attorneys alleged had Barnes' body inside, but prosecutors couldn't prove the theory, The Sun reported.
Barnes was an honor student at Union Academy. At the time of her death, classmates had remembered her as being a part of a tight-knit group that enjoyed going to the movies and shopping.