After an agonizing four-month multi-state search, the naked body of Phylicia Barnes, the North Carolina honor student who went missing last December, was found in a Maryland river Wednesday. The body of an unclothed, unidentified Black man was also found a few miles down the Susquehanna.
The cause of death for both is currently unknown.
"We're now at stage one of a new phase of the investigation," Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld told reporters Wednesday evening. "There's a mountain of investigative work that needs to be done." He added that there were no overt wounds or injuries on her body.
Conowingo Dam workers discovered Barnes' body floating in the river Wednesday morning. According to the medical examiner it’s “not out of the realm of possibility” that the body could have been there since she disappeared, a police official said.
Barnes, 16, had been in Baltimore visiting relatives over the winter break when she mysteriously disappeared. A focused student set to graduate early from high school, she gave no indication of being a troubled child and police suspected foul play almost right away.
Police reached out to national media outlets quickly, but the response they got was disappointing.
“I noticed the reaction from national media was a bit anemic,” Baltimore Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told AOL BlackVoices in an interview earlier this year. “It was very frustrating to turn on cable news channels and see the big story of the day was birds dropping out of the sky in Arkansas and dead fish. Meanwhile Phylicia is missing and could be in danger. I just wanted them to flash her face out there for a few minutes.”
Was Barnes a victim of what’s cynically called “Missing White Girl Syndrome?” You’ve seen it many times: When a pretty white girl goes missing there’s loads of national coverage daily and silence when a Black girl disappears. The term was used by Sheri Parks during an interview with Anderson Cooper in 2006 to describe this phenomenon: “Pretty, white damsels in distress draw viewers; missing women who are Black, Latino, Asian, old, fat, or ugly do not.”
(Photo: Baltimore Police)