Crime Beat: Phylicia Barnes' family 'deeply concerned' about case's progress

The family of Phylicia Barnes has posted an open letter to the Baltimore Police Department, accompanied by a petition, that expresses "deep concern" about "slow developments" in the investigation into the death of the North Carolina teenager. Barnes, an honors student and athlete set to graduate early from high school, went missing in Northwest Baltimore in December 2010 while visiting here, and turned up dead in the Susquehanna River months later.

The Maryland State Police, which took ownership of the case when Phylicia's body was found in the river that splits Harford and Cecil counties, are investigating with city police and issued this response:

"The concern of the Barnes family is understood within the Maryland State Police. I want to assure them the investigation of Phylicia's murder remains a priority for our Homicide Unit. I know the Baltimore Police Department shares that same commitment to this investigation. There is important investigative work being done that takes time and cannot be detailed publicly at this time. No one should think for a minute that this investigation has been suspended or is any less important to the Maryland State Police than it was the day Phylicia's body was recovered."

The Sun first reported in July that police had filed search warrants seeking access to email accounts and Facebook pages, citing child pornography statutes. Days before that report, the family had rallied outside City Hall.

Here's a snippet of the letter:

While we understand that police investigations take time, we do not purport to understand why nearly 3 months after her body was found, there have been no arrests in her case. How is it a "person of interest" whom, according to the media, has given conflicting statements to police, has yet to be taken into custody? While none of us are privy to the details in this investigation, we do understand from media accounts and prior police statements that Phylicia's death was not a "random" encounter. In addition, we are saddened, as well as angered that a bright, beautiful, 16 year old straight A, honor rolls student, who had her whole life ahead of her with so much to live for, could so senselessly be murdered while on Christmas vacation visiting family in this city.

We are deeply concerned about the slow developments of this case and we are afraid that justice may not be carried out in Phylicia's death. Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, who campaigned on a slogan to, "Fight Crime First" and was publicly endorsed by the Baltimore Police Union as a, "Crusader for Justice" led this city to believe that he cared about putting victims before criminals and getting killers off the streets of Baltimore. That would included the murder of a 16 year old innocent child who no longer has a voice of her own. Baltimore police have stated on-air they believe they are the one of the best police departments in this country and have promised "closure" to the Barnes and Sallis family in Phylicia's death. Her family cannot have "closure" without "justice".

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