Revisiting the Phylicia Barnes Case 

by Stacia L. Brown

A little over a year ago, missing N.C. teen Phylicia Barnes body was discovered in my hometown. While visiting her half-sister here in Baltimore, she disappeared, and though the momentum for search efforts was slow to build, the case eventually attracted national attention–and more than a little speculation as to how this tragedy had occurred. After watching interviews her mother gave on various news outlets and reading local articles that closely followed the case, I wrote about it, particularly about the ways in which it’s a cautionary tale. But investigators have unearthed new discoveries since my initial writing, particularly in the last few days, since an arrest in the case was made–and many of those new details have called my first reading of the situation into question. 

It’s difficult to hear about a case like this as a black woman and not place yourself into it. You are the weeping mother, plagued with regret over allowing your daughter’s Baltimore visits. You are the older sister, Deena Barnes, who has a right to unwind in whatever ways she wishes, since she works hard to own her own things, and has no problem playing a dude to the left if he’s not acting right. (Barnes’ accused killer, 28-year-old Michael Maurice Johnson, was reportedly at the sister’s home, alone with Phylicia Barnes, because he’d come by to pick up his things after being dumped.) Or, most notably, you’re Phylicia, who recently reconnected with her half-siblings on Facebook (they’d been back in touch for three years, after having initially met ten years before). If you’re Phylicia, you’re in awe of your older sisters. You’re begging your mom to let you come up to Baltimore from your mundane, slow-moving town of Monroe, N.C. You’re looking at Baltimore colleges. You want to be where the action is. 

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    The story of Phylicia Barnes is so sad. The man responsible for her her untimely death deserves the death penalty but since there are so many anti-death penaltly advocates in the state of Maryland he’ll probably just get life.

  • Ashley

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to make assumptions in this case regarding the relationship between the late Phylicia and the alleged murderer. The police are doing their job so lets be patient and wait. God rest her soul. I pray for justice to be served.

  • http://www.rivaflowz.com Riva

    This is so sad. I truly pray that they figure out what happened to this girl and prosecute the person responsible.

    -RivaFlowzDOTcom

  • Dreaming

    I’m from MD too, so yes, I have been following the case. I never speculated too much on what could have happened, because even with the details coming forward since the BF’s arrest, we still will never know exactly what happened.

  • Alexandra

    I thought so as well. I pray the family eventually gets the closure they might need.

  • Bosslady

    Yes, I thought that was inappropriate and disrespectful of the writer also…

  • steve

    I too pray for her family. But after getting to know Mike J. He is not a bad guy. He was harassed by the detectives from the start. So somethings he said on the phone was only because, he has never dealt with the law in this kinda way. I Pray for her family, but I also pray for Mike’s family. Mike is a new dad, with a small child. He seems like a non violent guy. Some times a little timid. I hope he has nothing to do with this at all. And it true that phylicia’s uncle (lead detective) is just ” after mike .” BUT if he does have something to do with her deaf, then mike you deserve what you get….I will be watching this case very close…

  • nikki

    great article! thanks for writing about the topic.

    Please proofread for grammatical errors though:

    “eager to impress and hold her old among her older sister’s family and friends” –>her own (?)

    “Did he killed her as revenge for her spurning his advances?” –> did he kill (?)

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