State medical examiners have officially ruled the death of North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes a homicide, police announced May 4. Examiners have also determined the cause of death, but are withholding the information. “To release a cause of death at this time could jeopardize the investigation by revealing information known only to the person or persons responsible for her death,” state police said in a statement.

The honors student and track star was found floating in the Susquehanna River two weeks ago after disappearing from her sister’s Northwest Baltimore apartment December 28.

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, told WJZ-TV that investigators are re-interviewing everyone who might have come in contact with Barnes the night before she disappeared. “There is new evidence and information that came as a result of finding her body and so investigators are certainly examining that,” Shipley said.

Police have not released the names of any suspects or made any arrests. State and local homicide investigators as well as FBI special agents continue to work on the case.

Barnes’ body was found nude on the Harford county side of the Conowingo Dam April 20. A man found floating just miles from Barnes was later identified as a Virginian whose family said he had threatened suicide. Officials say there is no likely connection between his death and Barnes’.

Vigils for the 16-year-old teen led by family, friends and concerned citizens have been held in Georgia, North Carolina and Maryland since her disappearance.

Family members have announced that a private funeral service will take place at Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga., on May 7 at 1 p.m. It will be streamed live at

Police urge anyone with information regarding Barnes’ murder to call the 24 hour tip line dedicated to her at 1-855-223-0033 or state police at 410-653-4200.


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO