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Phylicia Barnes' death ruled homicide, cause withheld

The death of Phylicia Barnes, the missing teenager whose body was found last month in the Susquehanna River, has been formally ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner's office, officials said.

Police also said a cause of death had been determined, but they were withholding the information for investigative purposes. "To release a cause of death at this time could jeopardize the investigation by revealing information known only to the person or persons responsible for her death," state police said in a statement.

The investigation, which has joined state police homicide investigators with the Baltimore detectives who have been working the case since Barnes disappeared last year, is continuing, officials said. FBI agents are also assisting.

Meanwhile, Barnes' family announced plans for her funeral in Georgia, which they said would be private but also streamed live on the Internet on Saturday. Services will begin at 1 p.m. in Conyers, Ga., and can be viewed at the website of the Springfield Baptist Church at http://www.sbclive.org.

"Phylicia's family wishes to thank her school family, law enforcement and the thousands of people that have expressed sympathies following her untimely demise," her mother's family said in a statement.

Barnes, a North Carolina honors student and athlete, vanished without a trace Dec. 28 from her half sister's Northwest Baltimore apartment during a visit. She was 16 at the time.

The case slowly gained national attention, and thousands of volunteers and law enforcement officers helped search neighborhoods and local parks.

On April 20, her body was found floating in the Susquehanna River, 40 miles northeast of Baltimore between Harford and Cecil counties, and she was later identified through dental records. Another body found in the river was that of a Richmond, Va., man whose death is not believed to be connected with hers.

Police said they have received very few leads in the case and were asking anyone with information to call a tip line at 1-855-223-0033, or the Maryland State Police at 410-653-4200. Callers can remain anonymous.



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