State and local authorities have confirmed that one of two bodies found floating in a northeastern Maryland River on April 21 is that of missing North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes.

“All of us prayed for a different outcome, but finding her body is really going to be instrumental in giving us an opportunity to bring closure to her family,” Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said at a news conference April 22. “Without it, it would have been incredibly difficult to move forward.”

Crews pulled out the body of a woman around 10 a.m., which Baltimore’s chief medical examiner later identified as Barnes. A tattoo on her “lower extremity” first prompted investigators to match up her dental records to the body.

Barnes disappeared from her half-sister’s Northwest Baltimore apartment on Dec. 28, leading to one of the state’s largest missing-person searches in recent years.

In a strange coincidence, several hours after crews found Barnes, they also found the body of a man three to four miles away. Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Terrance Sheridan said that while the bodies were found in close proximity, there is no indication that the two are connected.

The man has yet to be identified, but investigators say he is a Black male, about 6-feet, 4-inches tall and 240 pounds. Investigators say they are running his fingerprints through several local and national databases for identification.

Both bodies were unclothed when recovered. Sheridan said there were no immediately visible wounds, scars or signs of sexual assault on Barnes’s body.

Barnes was found some 45 miles from where she was last seen in Northwest Baltimore, and authorities said it is too early to determine if the murder occurred in Baltimore City. Sheridan said it is possible that Barnes’ body has been in the river since her disappearance in December and the cool temperatures helped preserve her body.

It will take several weeks to complete an autopsy and determine the cause of death, police said. Since Barnes was found outside Baltimore City, Maryland State Police will work with Baltimore City Homicide detectives on the case.

The disappearance of the 16-year-old track star and honors student baffled authorities, family members and friends. Baltimore City Police led expansive searches for the teen, the most recent involving 200 volunteers in Patapsco State Park in early April, and police sought nationwide media attention for her case.

Bealefeld said at the press conference that he had spoken with Barnes’ family and delivered the news. “It’s horrible. It’s the worst bit of news you can give to a mother,” he said.

 

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO