Phylicia Barnes Murder Trial Ends With Guilty Verdict

by Yesha Callahan

Phylicia BarnesTwo 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.”

  • Rakel

    I remember when this case first came out. I thought naively she would get the media attention she deserved. Beautiful young lady, Honors student, early college acceptance, athlete, etc. of course it doesn’t work like that though. I’m happy her family is at ease and she can rest in peace.

  • Cocochanel31

    such a shame her family allowed her to stay with her sister in peace.

  • CS11

    Seriously, you are blaming the family and not the scum that raped and killed her? Get your life.

  • Barbara

    The story your wrote is confusing. You say she made an explicit sex tape. Then you say he raped her, and she wouldn’t stop crying.

    My understanding of what happened to her was that she was the victim of rape and murder.

    May she rest in peace. Poor baby.

  • Chillyroad

    Obviously he is to blame but at what point are guardians and parents responsible and mindful of who are around their children. Do you know the number of children who are abused and killed by mommies new stud walking around the house? Dr. Laura said years ago that women should be in jail right along with the men who abuse her kids. I tend to agree.

  • Clutch

    Thanks for your comment Barbara, but we don’t see the confusion in the piece.

    The victim did make a sex tape with Johnson, and according to James McCray, a witness for the prosecution, Johnson claimed that he killed her because, after raping her, the victim wouldn’t stop crying.

    All of that led to the second-degree murder conviction.

  • EST. 1986

    It is probably confusing for you because you are assuming that sexual activity between Phylicia and Johnson only happened once.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and say that after the first time they had consensual sex, Johnson felt entitled to her and that is when she was raped.

  • InTears

    I have family located within that area of NC. From all accounts, Phylicia was a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. Her school and her community often spoke of her memorable personality. This was a TREMENDOUS lost for that area whereas the entire community was devastated. Some tragedies you will never forget and Phylicia is one of those. You won’t forget her face, you won’t forget she was an honor roll student, and came from a protective, attentive (caring) home where a parent is being a parent and during their job. She pleaded with her mom to visit her sister. Her mother allowed for her to do so because she didn’t often allow Phylicia to socialize much. Remember how parents use to ask who your friends are, who house are you going to, or you don’t need to attend that party – Phylicia came from this type of background. The bottom line is her innocence was taken advantage of.

    I didn’t know Phylicia personally, but to hear people speak of her and to watch that community during that time. I cried for her mother and her family. And I am in tears now to know justice has been partially served. We have been praying and waiting. Now Simone can rest in peace. However, it is not over for me. I want her story made into a Lifetime Movie to spread the case of black missing girls even more so. They all haven’t run away with boyfriends, party animals, unruly, or attempting to leave a life of crime behind as society try to depict us. Phylicia and others I’m sure was just as precious as Natalee Holloway.This is so sad how our missing (thanks, TV ONE) is not treated the same.

    R.I.P Phylicia Simone Barnes, RIP! I sincerely hope this is not the end of hearing your name!

    We LOVE YOU very much!

  • P

    You should get a thumps up from every Clutch supporter, blogger, journalist, writer, and internet user, really anyone who can click a button for this statement.

    God Bless YOU! Parents need to stop being so desperate for a mate, be mindful, and take care of their children first. **not referring to Simone’s mother* just to your statement.

  • Cocochanel31

    That’s all I’m saying Chilly Road. Of course this scumbag is to blame and this baby did not deserve to lose her life in any fashion. The parents could do everything right ( Sandy Hook) and she still be killed, was just making an observation. My heart goes out to the family truly.

  • EST. 1986

    Phylicia came to Baltimore to spend time with her sister and ultimately was murdered by her sister’s boyfriend, but you all are choosing to make this about who a woman chooses for a relationship? WTF!

  • SeeMe

    You’re right. Obviously, that barbaric, wanna-be pimp Johnson and PB’s ignorant, self-loathing half-sister (Johnson’s slave) Deena are definitely to blame you cannot take away from the fact that PB’s mother forced PB to marinate with family members that wanted nothing to do with her. The mother cyber-stalked the Barnes family on Facebook and deliberately prodded PB to get around them. She was arrogant about PB and she clearly wanted to rub PB’s beauty and academic success in the face of PB’s father and siblings because the father did not want Phylicia to be born etc. PB’s mother has knew that the siblings weren’t respectful people because PB told her that the brother called PB, “a cum stain.” The mother also remarked that the family “used to” view Deena as “the pretty one” until Phyicia re-surfaced. That’s ignorant and negative. The mother said that she didn’t want PB to be craving a father figure in some boy due to her father’s absence. But she didn’t send PB to her father in ATL, she sent her to Baltimore to be around someone she hadn’t even MET before. How do you dispatch your adolescent daugther somewhere like that without meeting/knowing people she’ll be staying with (with all this sex trafficking etc out there)? The mother used PB as an attitude weapon to use on the Barnes family. And there’s a lesson to be learned from that. Fortunately, the jury was smart and used common sense. But the mother is as dumb as some of the others involved in the case.

  • Ask_ME

    Some of you people on this site need some SERIOUS HELP! I’m mean some SERIOUS help.

    First thing, this grown arse man didn’t have a right to force himself on this child. She could not LEGALLY consent to sex with him. So in my opinion it’s a case of RAPE and statutory rape.

    Next thing, I agree the mother should have thought twice about sending her daughter to meet with FAMILY. Often times family is just as untrustworthy as enemies. However, blaming her for what this grown arse man did to this CHILD is sickening. In what world do you live in where a mother wants to see her child raped and murdered at the hands of an animal????

  • JDF

    While the boyfriend carries the brunt of the responsibility, as he should, the story appears somewhat incomplete. If her sister allowed her to visit, she assumed the role of guardian over this young woman, and should not have given or allowed her an opportunity to engage in alcohol/drugs, which unfortunately made her target for harm. We have got to learn to be our brother/sister (s) keeper. He alone is responsible for his actions, but most times it doesnt pay to be shortsighted.

  • Chillyroad


    I was watching a video on you tube of a judge scolding a mother after he had sentenced her boyfriend to life in prison for raping her disabled children. She knew what this man was doing and invited him back into the house.

  • lil ray

    ^ a website black women should look into.

  • Coccohanel31

    Very true Chilly Road. Perhaps the mother did meet the Sister Deena and deemed t he atmosphere okay, who knows! All I know is she was not deserving of this tragic end regardless! I know my crazy mother wasn’t lettting me stay with anyone at 16 that she didn’t know , especially if she did not know their parents etc…but again this is a truly tragic tale and the mom and especially sister for allowing this monster in her home, will live with the guilt for the rest of their lives. I hope that beast gets servved in prison what he was serving up smh.

    Reminds me of hte Mandeeces character from LHHATL. Just predatory character all around ..smh.

  • Kenzy

    this going to come across as irrelevant as i know there are those who will say focus on justice however, i clicked on the link clutch provided in the article and read that article too. Id like to advocate for parents to truly teach their children the responsible way to handle technology. IN this digital age we should try to embed in our children the right and way wrong way to use it..and to handle it with care. ALso to realize that once something is recorded or put on the internet its there forever. Of course kids will still do what they want, but I would like to think with more knowledge or the fear of their parents words would help. As i was reading the linked article all i kept thinking was wow a 16 year old not only recording a sex tape (or if she didnt saying agreeing it could be shot) and not only that but RECORDING IT ON SOMEONE ELSES PHONE!!!! id like to emphasize i feel bad for this family and im glad that sicko is going to jail for her murder and also that in essence this sex tape has nothing to do with her murder and justice but it is one of the things that stood out to me.. i mean honestly its no wonder teens and younger think this is ok when you have ppl who are getting “put on” by making a sex tape first ….RIP Phylicia

  • kenzy

    P.S. this stood out to me because while all this was going on i followed the case, intentionally sought out information as i knew the main stream wouldnt and kept tabs on the case and this article is the first time ive ever heard of a sex tape

  • Anthony

    The killer got off lightly with a second degree murder conviction since he killed after he raped her. That should be first degree murder from what understand of the law. I suppose the lack of stronger evidence resulted in lesser charges. A rape/murder is usually the sort of crime that results in sentences like life or the deth penalty.

  • SeeMe

    @Coccoahannel31: The mother said during interviews that she’d only spoken with Deena on the phone; she hadn’t met Deena in person. The mother said she had viewed DB as a positive sounding figure due to DB having lived on her own and being, seemingly, stabilized by a job title of “pharmaceutical tech.” Also consider that PB was initially staying with the older Barnes sister. But later, slyly, began staying w/DB.

    @Ask_me: It’s a big, big world out there. Not everybody’s gonna agree w you. And when they don’t, believe it or not, you’ll actually make it through the storm. No need to get emotional and rude. You gotta grow up about that. You don’t have to put on yo ugly, dingy “I’m-better-than-thou” hat and assert that those w differing opinions “need help.” You ain’t betta than [nodody] visiting this page. Know THAT immediately. Now, I said it once and I’ll say it again: that demon Michael Johnson, that hatin’, sloppy, low self-esteem, raggedy jump-off Deena, the ignorant, inarticulate ape-actin’ Barnes family members, AND Phylicia’s braggart mother–prematurely forcing PB into an environment of toxic “family” members w/o surveying the people and the scene (with her own eyes)– were ALL dumb. Don’t like me including the momma in the pool of ghetto urchins…too bad. You don’t send your young seeds/investments out into the world like that.

  • SeeMe

    @Anthony: I’m glad that the jury gave him second degree murder. The amount of circumstantial evidence was so high and Johnson was a typical murdering narcissist, thinking he was “smart” and would get away with it. It’s definitely Second degree because he didn’t plan to murder her when he went over to the apartment; he didn’t considerate killing her until PB re-acted hysterically, in a way where it was obvious that she was going to tell the world that he did something to her. He freaked out and killed her to silence her. The act of rape is an acute assumption, technically, so he can be charged for that. Her murder, however, is a fact. That being said, the sentencing is up to the judge. He could give him ten years or 30. But I think the judge is a devil who kept unnecesarily complaining that that the evidence was “circumstantial.” Dumb. He’ll probably go light on him. The judge, when whining about “circumstancial” evidence (like he’s never seen a case with it before, duh), did NOT even consider the fact that MJ and that ghetto piglet Deena had four months to shampoo carpets, clean walls, dispose of sheets etc. I thank God for the jury because the judge was hating. Sometimes, when dealing with info the “facts” won’t be handed to you on a silver platter and you have to use your God-given common sense. I hope skinny Johnson is raped in prison. He is truly an evil man…all this murder, lying, hiding bodies. People don’t just do this kind of stuff ONCE.

  • NY0216


  • Barbara

    Thanks for your insight.
    I was thinking “two” rapes had occurred. The Police used the Child Pornography law, which suggests that the victim was considered a child and can not give “legal” consent to have sex. The child was intoxicated. Equals rape?

    I don’t know what the “legal” age of consent is in that state.

  • tim

    Damn right. The blame starts with the family. Their job is to protect.

  • tim

    I agree with you. Sometimes the truth hurts but needs to be told. The blame starts with the mother. Plain and simple.

  • tim

    Are you saying that it shouldn’t have gotten attention if she was ugly?

  • Rakel

    Tim thanks for completely missing my point. We all know that minority children do not receive adequate media attention when they are murdered, kidnapped, sexually abused, etc. On the other hand white children and teens do, no matter what. If you have a chance you should read

    an article from what about our daughters. It highlights how Black girls, and women have to be damn near perfect if they want an ounce of public sympathy if a crime is committed against them. This is a reality for us. So yes I thought she was beautiful, intelligent, talented and would get the media attention she deserved. Even if she did not have all of those attributes I thought she was still deserving of sympathy. Look on Nancy Grace sometime and see how many missing Black faces you see. Yeah not the same number as whites. If you care to be informed about missing Black children check out:

  • Rakel

    Um I think you missed my point. We all know that minority children don’t receive the same media attention as their white counterparts. That’s a fact and it doesn’t matter what crime was committed against them. For Blacks in particular they have to be damn near perfect to receive public sympathy. Especially Black girls and women. If you have a chance read this article on What About Our Daughters

    It outlines what I’m talking about. Yes I thought Phylicia was beautiful, intelligent, and talented (even if she did not have those attributes I would still think she deserved sympathy) all the making of a “perfect victim” even authorities were surprised her case did not get more attention. If you watch Nancy Grace notice the ratio of minorities particularly Blacks to whites. Yeah not much on us. If you care to be informed check out Black and Missing that’s a nonprofit dedicated to giving missing minorities the attention they deserve.

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