City police plan mass search for missing North Carolina teen

Department seeks volunteers to help distribute fliers

  • Phylicia Simone Barnes, missing person
Phylicia Simone Barnes, missing person (Handout photo )
April 07, 2011|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore police are planning a mass search Saturday for Phylicia Barnes, the North Carolina teenager and track star missing since a December visit to the city.

The new search will involve more than 200 law enforcement officials.

Police are also seeking volunteers to help distribute fliers in the Northwest Baltimore neighborhood where Barnes had been staying with her half sister. Anyone interested in helping should call the public affairs unit at 410-396-2012.

Anthony Guglielmi, the chief spokesman for the city Police Department, would not identify the precise area to be searched or what is prompting detectives to concentrate there. He said only that investigators linked a person associated with Barnes to the area.

More details will be released Saturday morning, when police begin the dawn-to-dusk search.

"It will be an extensive effort," Guglielmi said.

Barnes went missing the afternoon of Dec. 28. The 16-year-old had planned to graduate early from high school and move to Baltimore to attend Towson University. She was last seen by her half sister's ex-boyfriend sleeping on a couch.

Six homicide detectives worked the case for months but reported few leads. They have questioned up to 30 people who knew Barnes or who had been among the last to see her.

Police have conducted more than a dozen searches, including in a streambed in Leakin Park and a well behind an apartment in Southwest Baltimore. Authorities have also conducted an extensive media campaign and gone on national cable television stations.

But tips have recently slowed to a telephone line (1-855-223-0033) still staffed 24 hours a day exclusively for the Barnes case, which police describe as one of the most extensive and complex missing-persons investigations undertaken by the department in years.

Guglielmi said only five tips have been called in to the line in the past two weeks, compared to 180 to 200 in the two months before that.

"We know there are people out there who know more than what they've shared with police," the spokesman said, urging anyone with information to call. "We're trying to generate as many leads as possible." A $35,000 reward is being offered.

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