Two years ago Phylicia Barnes, 16, went missing from a Pikesville, Maryland neighborhood. An honors student from Monroe, North Carolina, Barnes was visiting her half-sister Deena, after the re-connected over Facebook. On December 28, 2010, Phylicia disappeared.
Many criticized the media for not giving Phylicia’s case any attention because, in all missing persons cases, time is of the essence. From the beginning the speculation surrounding her disappearance involved Deena’s boyfriend, Michael Johnson. Johnson wasn’t charged until April 2012, over a year after Phylicia’s body was found. According to eyewitnesses he was the person to be seen with Phylicia Barnes.
Many questioned the environment the 16-year-old was staying in and pointed out that the activity Phylicia was involved in while staying with her sister could have been the catalyst to her death. During the stay, it’s reported that Phylicia indulged in drugs and alcohol. Phylicia also went streaking with Johnson and recorded a sexually explicit video, which was found on her sister’s phone.
Yesterday in a Baltimore courtroom, Johnson was found guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum of 30 years in jail. Second-degree murder does not require premeditation or deliberation. In order to convict the defendant of second-degree murder, the state must prove that the conduct of the defendant caused the death of the victim, and that the defendant engaged in the deadly conduct either with the intent to kill or with the intent to inflict such serious bodily harm that death would be the likely result.
Even though lawyers on both sides recognized the evidence against Johnson was circumstantial, prosecutors contended that the facts pointed to Johnson as the only reasonable suspect.
Key testimony came from two people, James McCray and a neighbor. McCray testified that he gave Johnson advice on what to do with Phylicia’s body, after Johnson told him he raped her and strangled her because she wouldn’t stop crying. A neighbor also told the jury that he saw Johnson transporting a plastic storage container from the apartment where Phylicia was staying the day she disappeared.
Phylicia’s mother, Janice Mustafa, was relieved with the verdict. “Now Simone can move on,” she said, referring to Barnes by her middle name. “This is a great day. I can breathe now.”