State calls star witness in Barnes trial at Phylicia Barnes murder trial

Witness: Johnson forced sex and killed Phylicia

BALTIMORE - Arguably the state's star witness took the stand after lunch Wednesday.

James Lee or McCray is serving time in Charles County for theft, he ran a "underground" tag and title business out of Mondawmin Mall; that is how he got to know the defendant Michael Johnson.

It was in December of 2010 when Johnson called Lee on his disposable cell phone asking for help.

Lee testified he met Johnson, walked into an apartment and bedroom and saw the body of Phylicia Barnes wrapped up in bedding on the bed.

Phylicia was dead and Lee testified Johnson told him he killed her after Johnson sexually forced himself on the teen.

Lee testified Johnson said Phylicia was giving him mixed signals, he forced sex and then she wouldn't stop crying; that, Lee said is when Johnson told him he choked her to death.

Lee then testified Johnson asked him how to dispose of the body.

Lee warned Johnson of cell phone tracking, not to bury the body, be careful of DNA and it's best to put the teen in a container and dump her in a body of water.

That shocking testimony, in part matches that of the assistant medical examiner earlier in the day who testified Barnes' cause of death was asphyxia.

The doctor who performed the autopsy also said the level of decomposition of Barnes' body was consistent to a body that was not only in cold water for four months, but contained and submerged.

In Dr. Pamela Southall's opinion, if Phylicia Barnes was floating free in the Susquehanna River for four months, there would be much more damage to her body.

Barnes' body was eventually discovered in a debris field near the Conowingo dam four months after she disappeared.

The defense moved quickly to discredit Lee's testimony bringing up the fact that he is currently serving time.

The defense team also got him to say this alleged meeting with Johnson happened before Christmas in 2010 which of course would not be correct as Phylicia was not reported missing until the 28th.

But the state made clear Lee is not getting any deal for his testimony.

Lee said he wrote the letter to Baltimore City Police last year saying he knew who killed Phylicia because it was simply the right thing to do. 

Lee said in open court he has "been dealing with the streets a long time and you never fool with women, children or the elderly; everyone has their standards," Lee told the jury, "and I have mine."

The Barnes trial is expected to resume Thursday morning.

Follow Brian Kuebler on Twitter at @TVTerp for more updates on the case.


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