Investigation Into Death of Teen Moves to 'New Place'
Police identified the body of the missing girl but are still investigating the incident.
UPDATE (10:37 p.m.)—The body of Phylicia Barnes, the North Carolina teen who had been missing since December, has been found, but the circumstances of her death continue to elude detectives.
City and Maryland State police confirmed that one of two bodies pulled from the Susquehanna River on Wednesday about four miles south of the Conowingo Dam and 10 miles north of Havre de Grace was that of Barnes. The second body, that of a black man, remains unidentified Friday.
"We're now at stage one of a new place in the investigation," Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said Thursday night during a news conference at Maryland State police headquarters in Pikesville.
The bodies were pulled from the water within four miles of each other. Neither body was wearing clothes when found. Barnes was positively identified by her dental records.
Investigators will now focus their efforts on answering lingering questions about the last days of Barnes' life after she disappeared.
“We’re going to continue to work as hard now as we worked all those days since Dec. 28," Bealefeld said. "Our goal is to simply bring closure to Phylicia Barnes' family and figure out what happened and hold those responsible accountable.”
So far, Barnes' cause of death is unknown. Medical examiners said there were no indications of overt wounds on Barnes' body.
Police will also try to identify the man pulled from the water on the same day. Neither Bealefeld nor Maryland State Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan would say definitively that the deaths were connected beyond the bodies being found within hours of each other.
Also unknown is how long Barnes and the unidentified male had been in the water.
Sheridan said, according to medical examiners, "it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility” both could have been in the water since December with the cold temperatures slowing decomposition.
Under such conditions, the bodies would "stay intact for a long time," Sheridan said.
Neither Bealefeld nor Sheridan would speculate on persons of interest or whether foul play was suspected.
Investigators were returning to the area where the bodies were found to search for evidence, Bealefeld said. The scope of the investigation, however, is being conducted at a national level as well.
Both bodies have been scanned for fingerprints, which are being processed through the state's Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Center.
“Homicide investigators have notified police throughout the region about the recovered bodies," Sheridan said."We’re now working with the Baltimore Police Department homicide detectives and the ongoing investigation they had with Phylicia Barnes."
Barnes was from Monroe, NC, and was visiting her half-sister when she went missing from Northwest Baltimore three days after Christmas.
The discovery of Barnes' body brings to an end a nearly four-month search that involved local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and covered areas outside the city, including a search of Patapsco Valley State Park.
"We didn't limit the scope of our efforts to Baltimore City," Bealefeld said.
He said he spoke to Barnes' parents prior to Thursday's news conference.
"All of us prayed for a different outcome of this case," Bealefeld said.
"It's horrible," he said. "It’s the worst possible news you could give to any mother and it’s the last bit of news that they’d ever want to hear. It’s a very difficult situation for everyone and horrible for that family.”