BALTIMORE - It is information the family of Phylicia Barnes has waited on for 16 months. At a bail review hearing for the 28-year-old suspect, Michael Johnson, the state started to show its case.
For the first time, we heard about a storage container they say Johnson bought at Wal-Mart and had difficulty carrying out of the Northwest Baltimore apartment where Phylicia was visiting family.
"I would hope that he would tell exactly what he had in that container, tell his family, tell his family, tell them the truth about what happened to Phylicia Barnes," said Harry Watson, Phylicia Barnes’ cousin.
The North Carolina teen went missing December 28, 2010, when she was visiting her half-sister, whom Johnson dated for years. In court, we learned the tub has not been recovered, but a neighbor told investigators he saw Johnson sweating, carrying it out of the apartment.
Johnson's defense calls it a circumstantial case.
"I don't believe any jury could look at what they stated today and find him anywhere remotely responsible for any wrongdoing," said Brandon Mead, said Johnson’s defense attorney.
But the judge was not convinced enough to post bail. The state presented text messages and conversations between Johnson and his brother and girlfriend.
Months after Phylicia's body was found, Johnson allegedly said "I gotta be realistic about this situation. I should go to Brazil."
The judge said "no bail" and noted the U.S. does not have an extradition policy with Brazil.
"I don't blame him. He's scared. He's never dealt with the criminal justice system a day in his life. This is all new to him, and he's scared," said Mead.
"I know in my heart that something happened and he was a part of it. And if you are guilty it's going to come out. If it doesn't come out in the wash, it will definitely come out in the rinse," said Rev. Larondi Flowers, Phylicia Barnes’ family friend.
Prosecutors also say 500 text messages were traded between Michael Johnson and Phylicia Barnes within two months prior to her death.
But relatives have said Johnson thought of her as a little sister. He is charged with one count of first degree murder. He has no prior record.
ABC2 News Reporter Brian Kuebler broke the arrest early Thursday morning. You can follow him on Twitter @TVTerp .
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