By Michelle Richardson, Special to the AFRO

Michael Johnson, 34, the Baltimore man charged with killing North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes in 2010, has been acquitted for a third time.

Barnes, 16 at the time of her disappearance, went missing from Northwest Baltimore in December of 2010 when she was in town visiting relatives and staying with her older sister.

Her body was found in the Susquehanna River a couple of months later in April of 2011.

The body of Phylicia Barnes, who was 16 when she disappeared in December 2010, was pulled from the Susquehanna River in April 2011. Michael Johnson was charged with her murder and he was acquitted for a third time March 30. (courtesy photo)

According to prosecutors, Michael Johnson was the last person to see her alive.

Johnson, the boyfriend of Barnes’ older sister, was arrested for her murder soon after her body was found.

Johnson was eventually tried three times in the case, the first trial resulted in an acquittal on first-degree murder, but Johnson was convicted of second-degree murder.

Johnson spent three years in prison on the second-degree murder charge.

At his sentencing, charges were thrown out and a new trial was asked for by Johnson’s attorney’s siting the case was, “bolstered by the petty criminal the prosecution brought in to testify.”

The prosecution had bought in a friend of Johnson’s, who was in prison, to testify that Johnson had called him for help to move a body. Johnson was seen by a neighbor struggling with a large, blue container which prosecutors say contained Barnes body.

A new trial was granted.

In the second trial, Judge John Addison Howard dropped all charges against Johnson in January of 2015, stating that there was insufficient evidence to continue the trial.

On Friday, March 30, Johnson was acquitted for the third, and what may be the final time, in the case.

After four weeks and more than two dozen state witnesses, the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Johnson.

“The bottom line is there are far, far too many questions left unanswered about what happened to Ms. Barnes and how the defendant is connected to her murder,” said Judge Charles Peters.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby released a statement after the trial:

“Since the inception of my administration, I swore to fight for 16-year old Phylicia Barnes who was murdered in 2010. And for the past 3 years, we’ve fought all the way to the state’s highest court and back. We never wavered in our pursuit of justice for the Barnes family and the innocent child that tragically lost her life. We believed, based in the evidence presented to us, that we were pursuing the individual responsible for her murder but the justice system has run its course and we must now respect the court’s decision. This outcome does not change the fact that the family of Phylicia Barnes has suffered a tremendous loss and we will continue to support them as they continue to grieve and cope with this difficult development.”

Mosby also stated, “I am extremely disappointed by today’s decision, but the judicial process has played out and we have no choice but to follow that decision and to respect that decision.”

Johnson tearfully hugged and kissed his attorneys in the courtroom after the verdict was rendered.

“We grieve for the Barnes family and this tragedy, but convicting an innocent man is not justice for Phylicia Barnes,” said Katy O’Donnell, one of Johnson’s attorneys. “We are grateful that this seven-year nightmare is over for Mr. Johnson and his family.”