A Baltimore jury convicted a local man of second-degree murder for the slaying North Carolina honors student Phylicia Barnes.

Michael Maurice Johnson, the boyfriend of Barnes’ half-sister, was acquitted on a charge of first-degree murder but found guilty on the lesser charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Barnes’ disappearance in December 2010 sparked a national media frenzy after local law enforcement agents refused to classify the teen as a missing person. Now, Barnes’ family said they have finally found peace of mind.

“I feel wonderful, wonderful, wonderful… definitely,” Russell Barnes, Phylicia’s father, told the AFRO. “I feel great you know. Relieved now that it’s over.”

Barnes moved to Baltimore to spend time with her half-sister Deena Barnes, who she reconnected with via the Internet, and had ambitions to study at Towson University in Maryland.

A year after her disappearance, Barnes’ body was found in the Susquehanna River in northeastern Maryland following intense months of searching by her father, the Alliance of the Guardian Angels, local law enforcement, family and friends.

Johnson, who displayed little interest in being involved in the search and rescue efforts for Barnes, quickly became a suspect and was eventually arrested on April 25.

Johnson’s trial was initially set to begin in August, but was postponed after 17,000 pages of additional documents were added into evidence.

Key pieces of new evidence included a 16-minute tape showing Barnes, her half-sister, Johnson and his younger brother Glenton Michael Johnson engaging in sexual acts together after going streaking.

After an 11-day trial, Johnson, who had dated Deena Barnes for more than a decade, was convicted by the six man, six woman jury of killing Barnes in her sister’s Baltimore apartment, where she had been visiting, and disposing of her body in a plastic tub. Surveillance footage from Wal-Mart show Johnson purchasing the tub was also entered into evidence.

Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced March 20. 

Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers