The Investigation into Phylicia Barnes’ Disappearance

Phylicia Simone Barnes — Abducted, Baltimore, MD — 12/28/10

There’s not much if any evidence to go on as to what happened to missing teen Phylicia Barnes, but there are…

Several Interesting Things We DO Know

1. The only “shoes” that are missing are Phylicia’s brand-new slipper boots…not exactly shoes you’d go walking to the store or anywhere else in

2. She did have her coat, phone, purse and debit card, but left her cash and emergency credit card behind

3. Phylicia told her older sister Shantel Shallis on Monday, December 27 she was uncomfortable because one of the men had made advances toward her but she rejected him. She also said she didn’t want to tell her half-sister for fear it would cause more tension between Deena, Johnson and herself.

Johnson posted on Facebook (but it was later removed) that he knew about it and it wasn’t any of his brothers. Was it himself? His younger brother/cousin? Someone else he’s connected to?

4. Police bloodhounds tracked her scent to the curb in front of the apartment, but no farther

5. The apartment is behind Reisterstown Shopping Plaza, in a neighborhood that is no stranger to crime. Deena’s apartment was a ground floor unit in the front.

6. Phylicia hasn’t used her cell phone, bank account or posted to Facebook since that day. At this point, her cell phone seems to be either permanently off or broken.

The Nap

Phylicia’s mother Janice Sallis has made a big deal out of the fact that Johnson says the girl laid down for a nap when she knew her sister was coming to get. But there are several plausible scenarios. She may have layed down if…

  • She’d had a couple of drinks the night before (which we don’t know) and was hung over.
  • Someone kept her up late–especially since her bed was the living room couch. Phylicia reportedly told Shantel that people were often coming and going til 4 AM in the apartment.
  • She was “playing possum.” Family members say Phylicia hated confrontation and she had to know Deena would contact Johnson about the Facebook picture. We also don’t know if he was the one who made advances toward her or not.

Since she didn’t have a room to retreat to, it’s very possible she pretended to take a nap to avoid dealing with him until her sister picked her up.

Still, pretending to be asleep on the living room couch would have put her in a vulnerable position if Johnson was angry.

All in the Family

Phylicia met Deena at a family reunion about 10 years ago. About two years ago, Janice encouraged her to get to know “that side of her DNA,” by contacting her half-sisters and possibly finding her father, whom Phylicia hadn’t heard from in eight years.

The teen reached out to Deena via Facebook and visited her Baltimore relatives during the Christmas holidays of 2009. The siblings all say they bonded with her immediately.

Janice has accused Deena of allowing the Phylicia to drink and do drugs and of having men coming and going from the apartment all the time. In fact, Deena gave her a list of 20 men Phylicia had been around in the days before his disappearance. (Police have narrowed the list to 12.)

Deena admits she was more permissive with the girl than Janice would have liked, and may have let her drink some vodka and take a “few puffs” of marijuana, but denies allowing her to do anything that “would have made her vulnerable.”

Major McLarney of Baltimore Police Department supports Deena’s account. “I think whatever was happening in there is not going to be that far off the map for people in their late teens,” he said. “There was nothing really bad in there.”

Deena’s Ex–Michael Johnson

Sgt. William Simmons of the Baltimore Police Department said in a recent interview he doesn’t consider either Deena or her ex a suspect in the case. “For the most part, [we believe them]. We have interviewed them both on multiple occasions.”

Michael Johnson also does not have a criminal record. Still, he was the last to see her and the one person we know was at the apartment when Phylicia stopped responding to her sisters’ texts and calls.

Of course, the last message Phylicia sent Deena was to say she had found a photo of Michael with his new girlfriend on Facebook…shortly after Johnson told Deena he wanted to get back with her.

He knew the teen was on Facebook that morning. So if Deena confronted him right away, it would have been a volatile situation for most adults–much less a 16 year-old girl.

Several extensive searches have been conducted around North Bend and Frederick Roads, near Johnson’s home. And Phylicia’s family spent the Saturday before last papering the neighborhood there with flyers as well.

Johnson has retained an attorney, although police said several of the people they’ve talked to have retained legal representation.

The Investigation

The police say they’ve run down every lead they’ve received,”no matter how ridiculous,” but have come up empty.

Phylicia has no history of family trouble, drugs, or emotional issues that would have motivated her to run away. Combined with the lack of activity on her phone, bank and online accounts, police officially classified her as an abduction a week after her disappearance.

They’ve repeatedly questioned a dozen people who had access to Deena’s apartment. Homes, cars, a stone well, a woodshed, and a park known as a body dump have been searched–on foot and with the assistance of FBI helicopters. Yet there’s still no sign of the teen.

While other missing teen cases seem to languish in law enforcement’s hands, the Baltimore Police Department has allocated extensive resources to the case–including half the city’s homicide 70-member squad and 50 police academy cadets at one point. A squad of six detectives–ones with the highest arrest and conviction rates–have been on the case full-time since January 3.  In a city like Baltimore, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Now they just need to catch a break.

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