By Peter Hermann
Baltimore Sun reporter
11:38 AM EDT, April 26, 2012
Dec. 28, 2010 — Phylicia Barnes, visiting from Monroe, N.C., is last seen in her sister's apartment in the 6500 block of Eberle Drive, near the Reisterstown Road Metro station and shopping plaza. When her sister, Deena, can't locate her, family members call police. Deena's ex-boyfriend, Michael Johnson, is the last person to see her alive, reporting that he saw her asleep on the couch as he moved out of the apartment.
Jan. 3, 2011 — Baltimore police put out an alert and say she could've been abducted. The police commissioner speaks about the case, noting the use of bloodhounds and helicopters. Relatives said she left with her cellphone and wallet, and had been wearing slippers. Police said they believe she walked out of her apartment about 1:30 p.m., after sending a text to Deena, who was at work, about getting food. Her cell phone was turned off.
Jan. 4, 2011 — The FBI joins more than two dozen detectives in a search for Barnes that led them and 50 cadets to Leakin Park. "We are going to pour in all the resources we can," a police spokesman said. "At this point, any tip we get is credible."
Jan. 5, 2011 — Police expand their search to half the homicide squad, but admit they're "basically, at square one." The girl's father, Russell Barnes, flies in from North Carolina. "I just want to pray to God that my beautiful daughter is all right and that she will be found," he says at a police command post.
Jan. 6, 2011 — Police press for national media attention as the search grows to one of the most extensive in department history. A police spokesman compares it to the Natalee Holloway case, complaining the wealthy white teen who went missing in the Caribbean continues to garner national media attention while a missing black girl in Baltimore does not.
Jan. 8, 2011 — Volunteers join in the search, spending a snowy Saturday trekking through a patch of thick pine trees and along railroad tracks in Northwest Baltimore.
Jan. 14, 2011 — Two United States senators, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Larry Kissell of North Carolina, issue a joint statement asking for help in finding the girl. Clear Channel donates billboard space to show her photo along city highways.
Jan. 20, 2011 — City police searched the woods behind a Southwest Baltimore apartment building but found nothing. Authorities had concentrated on what they described as a well near a shed on a property in the 400 block of North Bend Road, south of Edmonson Avenue in the Westgate community near the Baltimore County line.
Jan. 31, 2011 — The squad of Baltimore homicide detectives assigned to the case talk to The Baltimore Sun. Lead Det. Daniel T. Nicholson IV, a 17-year veteran, expresses sympathy for the Barnes' family, recounting how he has two daughters and would be heartbroken if one of them disappeared. "This is a young girl who was well-liked in high school," he said. "She was doing what any young person would do, visiting her family ... and she vanished from the face of the earth. That's hard to believe. … It's frustrating in that we've run out every lead, no matter how ridiculous or impossible it might seem." His biggest fear, he says, is that "it's not going to be a happy ending."
April 9, 2011 — Hundreds of police and civil air patrol volunteers, along with the Maryland Urban Search and Rescue Team, conduct a daylong search through 16,000-acre Patapsco Valley State Park straddling Howard and Baltimore counties. Searchers find a body, but no sign of Phylicia Barnes. A frustrated police spokesman said: "We are now very much back at square one. We have no doubt in our minds that something very tragic has happened to her."
April 20, 2011 — Boaters and a worker at the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, 40 miles northeast of Baltimore, find two bodies, one male, one female, floating in the water.
April 21, 2011 — The state medical examiner's office confirms that the body of the woman is Phylicia Barnes, matching dental records and a rose tattoo on the lower leg. The body of the male remains unidentified, adding a new twist to the case and raising suspicions of a double-murder or a murder-suicide.
April 22, 2011 — Family members started preparations for a funeral as the investigation shifted from a search to criminal case.
April 24, 2011 — Phylicia Barnes' half brother, Bryan, speaks out about the death. Wearing a T-shirt with the victim's picture on it, and the words, "Have you seen me?" The firefighter said everyone was still coming to grips with the case.
April 25, 2011 — Classmates at Phylicia Barnes' school, Union Academy in North Carolina, hold a memorial service. Flags were at half-staff and grief counselors were on duty as students returned from spring break. Purple ribbons were hung on trees and elsewhere around campus.
April 26, 2011 — The body of the man found in the Susquehanna River at the same time that Barnes' body was found is identified as missing 53-year-old from Richmond, Va. Police said the two deaths are not related.
April 28, 2011 — Dozens of family, friends and others who were drawn to Phylicia Barnes' story and her smile, held a final vigil at Reisterstown Square Apartments — the last place the teenager was seen alive.
May 4, 2011 — Authorities rule the cause of death a homicide but decline to reveal details on how she was killed.
May 7, 2011 — Funeral his held at Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga., where her mother lived. Mourners gathered around her closed casket and a large purple flower display in the shape of a cross, along with a large print of her senior class picture.
June 28, 2011 — Family and friends rally in front of City Hall six months after the disappearance, pleading for answers and hoping that police have not forgotten the case..
July 7, 2011 — It becomes public that authorities have obtained search warrants for email and Facebook accounts belonging to Barnes and at least three other people. Court documents say authorities are seeking access to the accounts as part of a child pornography investigation and sexual exploitation of a minor, though the affidavits that spell out that angle remain sealed and agencies involved in the case refused to comment.
Sept. 25, 2011 — Baltimore County police investigate a report from police Detective Nicholson's 15-year-old daughter that he had beat her on the buttocks and arm with a cable cord after a dispute over her setting up a Facebook page. The girl told police she was hit again when a male called the house.
Nov. 4, 2011 — Authorities charge Nicholson in a criminal summons with second-degree assault.
Nov. 18, 2011 — Baltimore County prosecutors drop the charges in exchange for the family getting counseling. State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger described the charges as parental discipline that may have crossed the line.
Dec. 28, 2011 — A year after Phylicia Barnes disappeared, relatives marked the anniversary pressing for answers as the attorney for Michael Johnson criticized police for focusing on his client. Russell Neverdon said the case is "not progressing" and that police are wasting their time with Barnes' sister's ex-boyfriend. He also alleges that a Baltimore police officer who is related to the girl interfered in the early stages of the investigation. "It disheartens me, how they went about this. It's like the Keystone Kops." Neverdon said detectives collected DNA from his client, questioned him for hours and shown up at his work. "Very pointedly, they have nothing," he said. "If they had it, they would have brought charges."
April 20, 2012 — The 15-year-old daughter of Det. Daniel T. Nicholson IV, the lead detectives on the Barnes' case, runs away from their Baltimore County home, apparently after an argument over grades and social media. Over the weekend, city police in the Public Affairs unit issue a news release seeking help finding the girl, later determined to be unauthorized.
April 24, 2012 — The Baltimore police detective who lead the investigation is suspended after authorities said he allegedly went on a rogue hunt for his own missing daughter. Det. Daniel Thomas Nicholson IV used his badge while off duty to gain entry to homes in an unauthorized search at a Northeast Baltimore apartment over the weekend, according to sources.
April 25, 2012 — Members of the Baltimore Police Department's Warrant Apprehension Task Force arrest Michael Johnson at his girlfriend's apartment. The arrest came about 11:30 p.m., according to his attorney, Neverdon, who alleged police expedited the bust "because they don't want to ruin the credibility of the case" based on Nicholson's suspension. The police union president defends Nicholson, saying, "This shows now only how good a cop he is, but how important his family is to him. The same effort and energy he put into locating Phylicia Barnes, you can see him doing the same for his daughter. That's the kind of cop we want to patrol the streets of Baltimore."
April 26, 2012 — Baltimore police confirm Michael Johnson's arrest in a Twitter announcement at 12:41 a.m. A news conference is scheduled for 1 p.m.
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