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Jury hears Michael Johnson's first interview with police

Michael Maurice Johnson, shown in this 2012 file photo, is being retried for the murder of Phylicia Barnes.
Michael Maurice Johnson, shown in this 2012 file photo, is being retried for the murder of Phylicia Barnes. (Photo courtesy of Baltimore City Police Department)

Jurors in the Phylicia Barnes murder trial heard tape of accused killer Michael Maurice Johnson's first interview with police, three days after the teenager from North Carolina went missing in late 2010.

Johnson, described as calm and cooperative by Det. David McDermott, agreed to be interviewed in the waning hours of New Year's Eve. Police said he was not a suspect at the time, and asked him about his movements that day and his relationship with the 16-year-old.

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"I call her 'Lil Sis'," Johnson told McDermott.

The tape of the interview was played for jurors the day after prosecutors had a cell phone mapping expert chart the movement of Johnson's cell phone on Dec. 28, when Phylicia was last seen alive. His account from Dec. 31 of his movements coincided with the path charted by his cell phone, which never goes east of Northwest Baltimore. Phylicia's body was found floating in the Susquehanna River four months later.

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Prosecutors have said that Johnson developed an inappropriate relationship Phylicia, the younger half-sister of his then-girlfriend, pointing to hundreds of text messages the two exchanged.

Johnson did not hide the number of messages he sent the teen when talking to detectives in the Dec. 31 interview, saying they communicated "three to four times a day, maybe more" by text but only twice had spoke by phone.

Johnson said Phylicia was sleeping when he first arrived at the Northwest Baltimore apartment, where he was collecting some belongings and doing laundry as he prepared to move out. His 10-year relationship with Phylicia's older sister was ending, and text messages introduced earlier in the trial show he was continuing to reconcile around the time Phylicia disappeared.

Johnson told the detectives Phylicia later "looked like she was getting ready to go somewhere" and mentioned wanting to go to Reisterstown Road Plaza to get food.

Also Wednesday, an FBI computer analyst testified that one of the last posts to Phylicia's Facebook page read, "I'm so f'in hungry man, ugh," and that she responded to a reply from Johnson's brother, writing, "Bring me some food."

Prosecutors raised the idea that they do not believe Phylicia posted some of the content to the Facebook page herself, asking the analyst whether anyone can write on a Facebook page if it is left on the screen of a computer.

The posts about food appeared around 11:30 a.m. Phylicia's last post was at around 12:30 p.m., and her cell phone was turned off just after 1 p.m.

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