Older sister of Phylicia Barnes testifies, jury watches sex tape
UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -
Monday's testimony in the murder trial of Michael Johnson focused on the older half-sister of Phylicia Barnes.
The Monroe teenager was staying with Deena Barnes in Baltimore when she disappeared. Deena's ex-boyfriend, Michael Maurice Johnson, is accused of killing Phylicia in December of 2010. Her body was found four months later in the Susquehanna River, near Baltimore.
Police say Johnson is the last known person to see the 16-year-old honors student alive.
WBTV's CBS affiliate WJZ in Baltimore reports that Deena Barnes talked about the night a sexually charged cell phone video was made involving Deena, Phylicia, Johnson and his younger brother.
The jury was shown the video, but the monitors were turned away so reporters could not see it. They could hear the audio.
Deena wiped away tears as she described allowing Phylicia to drink alcohol and get naked. She said the group had planned to go streaking at a nearby high school.
Prosecutors said Johnson is scene looking at Phylicia and they call that night a turning point as his interest in the honors student changed.
Deena Barnes said Johnson stopped by her Baltimore apartment the day Phylicia disappeared. Deena said she was at work, and got worried when she did not hear from her sister. She said Johnson seemed nervous that day.
The Baltimore Sun also reported a twist in the trial on its first day last week. Prosecutors say Johnson called another man to the apartment the day Phylicia was killed, showed the man Phylicia's body and asked for advice on what to do.
Prosecutors attribute this information to a petty thief named James McCray.
Johnson's defense calls McCray and "jailhouse snitch" who "can't tell Michael Johnson from Michael Jordan".
Johnson and Deena were involved in a romantic relationship for ten years before Phylicia disappeared.
In April 2012, Johnson was indicted on a first-degree murder charge.
At a bail hearing, prosecutors said Johnson asphyxiated Phylicia in her half-sister's apartment, and then moved her body to a 35-gallon plastic tub. Witnesses told investigators – on the day Barnes disappeared, they saw Johnson with a 35-gallon blue storage bin, sweating profusely.
Also at the bail hearing, prosecutors claimed Phylicia told a relative Johnson made her "uncomfortable".
The state told the judge, Johnson exchanged more than 500 text messages with Barnes during the summer of 2010.
Since that hearing, little has come to light about the case. A gag order was issued, keeping the lawyers involved from speaking.
Court proceedings will also include prosecutors playing a sex video and defense attorneys revealing details from an internal affairs investigation of the lead detective in the case.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the so-called sex video contains content prosecutors say depicts Phylicia, Johnson, and two other people engaged in "sexual relations". A judge gave the go-ahead in early January for prosecutors to show the video, but said it must be played in open court.
Something else that could come out at the trial – a defense witness who claims to have seen Barnes alive in another county after she was reported missing.
In 2011, Johnson's attorney told WBTV police had rushed the investigation.
"Their theory has always been he was the last person to see her, and therefore had to be culpable in her disappearance and untimely death," Attorney Russell Neverdon told WBTV.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said that's not so – "Based on a complete and thorough investigation, we believe that we've got the right guy".
Meanwhile, Phylicia's mother has accused half-sister Deena of condoning alcohol use, and allowing men to drop by her apartment.
Through it all, Johnson has maintained his innocence.
December 28, 2010 - Phylicia Barnes, 16, reported missing from Baltimore March 7, 2011 - Phylicia's sister sought restraining order against Michael Johnson April 20, 2011 - Phylicia Barnes' body foundMore>>