Md. man guilty of murdering NC teen

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 7, 2013

Md. man guilty of murdering NC teen

BALTIMORE (AP) — A Baltimore man was convicted Wednesday of murdering a North Carolina teenager who disappeared while visiting her family during the 2010 Christmas holidays and whose body was found months later floating in the Susquehanna River.

Jurors deliberated for three days before convicting Michael Maurice Johnson, 29, of second-degree murder, said Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office.

Johnson was charged with first-degree murder in the 2010 slaying of Phylicia Barnes. Prosecutors said Johnson killed the 16-year-old from Monroe, N.C., in her sister’s apartment and then used a 35-gallon tub to move the body.

More than 30 witnesses were called during the trial by the prosecution while the defense called one — a co-worker who said Johnson was a good worker and didn’t arouse suspicion when he called in sick the day Barnes disappeared. Johnson did not testify.

Defense lawyers told the jury in closing arguments that prosecutors failed to show a motive.

Among the witnesses were the teenager’s older sister and James McCray, 36, who is serving time for theft. McCray said Johnson called him for help in getting rid of the body.

Johnson’s defense attorneys pointed out that McCray has only a fourth-grade education.

Jurors also viewed a sexually explicit cellphone video of the victim, her sister, Johnson and Johnson’s younger brother.