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Body of N.C. honor student missing for months found floating in river

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Body of Phylicia Barnes found
  • NEW: Police say there are no "overt"signs of wounds or injuries on Phylicia Barnes
  • NEW: Hers and another body were found in a river, three to four miles apart
  • NEW: A top officer says her body could have been in the cold water since December
  • That's when she was last seen in Baltimore, where she was visiting her half-sister

(CNN) -- The body of a 16-year-old honor student from North Carolina -- missing since December -- has been found in a Maryland river, her father and police said Thursday.

Russell Barnes, the girl's father, said that a female body found in the Susquehanna River in northeast Maryland is that of his daughter, Phylicia Barnes. It was recovered about 40 miles from where she was last seen, in the city of Baltimore.

On Thursday night, Maryland State Police Superintendent Terrence Sheridan and Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld confirmed at a press conference that the body is that of the teenager student from Charlotte, North Carolina.

"All of us, since that fateful day, have been praying and hoping for a different outcome," said Bealefeld. "But unfortunately, we are here today."

Phylicia Barnes' body was one of two found Wednesday in the river -- one south and the other north of the Conowingo Dam -- state police said.

Her body was recovered around 10 a.m. that morning, less than three hours after people spotted it and flagged down police, said Sheridan. Authorities spotted another body -- which hasn't been identified but was described by the superintendent as a black male weighing 240 pounds and standing about 6 feet, 4 inches tall -- floating in water about three to four miles away just before 2 p.m.Wednesday. There were no clothes on either body.

Body of missing honor student found
Phylicia Barnes' father speaks out

"There's no other indication of any connection," Sheridan said of the bodies, besides the fact both were found in the same river, though he didn't rule out a link.

The teenage girl said she was going out to get something to eat and maybe a haircut when she left a residence in Baltimore where she'd been staying with her half-sister, according to that city's police.

Later, authorities said they feared that Barnes had been abducted or otherwise harmed. She had left her debit card where she was staying, and hadn't answered her cell phone since her disappearance, her mother, Janice Sallis, told HLN.

Sallis, who described herself as very "protective" as a mother, said she was "stunned" and "devastated" after learning from one of Phylicia Barnes' siblings "there was a listing of 20 different guys going in and out" of where the teen was staying. The mother claimed that the daughter was also allowed to drink alcohol.

On Thursday, Russell Barnes said that his daughter didn't know anyone besides immediate family in Baltimore.

"She's a well-loved individual, with everyone," Russel Barnes told HLN's "Nancy Grace."

According to police, Phylicia Barnes communicated through text messages with her half-sister about 12:30 p.m. the day she disappeared.

The half-sister's ex-boyfriend was moving out of the apartment and he saw the teenage girl on the couch around 1:30 p.m. But he said when he came back around 5:10 p.m., she was not there there. The door was reportedly unlocked, and music was blasting very loudly in the apartment.

In January, Baltimore police spokesman Anthony J. Guglielmi said the FBI did a profile on the girl and found no reason that she might run away. She was a good student with no major emotional disturbances in her life, he said.

"The fact set of this case is different than anything else we've seen," he said.

Her body was positively identified at the Baltimore city medical examiner's office thanks to a tattoo on "her lower extremity," said Sheridan. He added there was "no indication of any overt wounds or injuries," nor any indication either body found was weighed down.

The superintendent said the bodies may have been dumped much further down the fast-moving river, and said that its cold temperatures may have prevented the bodies from signficantly decomposing for several months.

"The medical examiner has indicated that it's not out of the ream that the body could have been there" since December, said Sheridan. "If you look at that river, look at how fast it's moving, all sorts of things could have happened."

Bealefeld, the top policeman in Baltimore, vowed that authorities will "work as hard now as we've worked all those days since December 28." A city police spokesman earlier said more than 100 Baltimore police officers, Maryland State Police troopers and FBI agents had been working on the case.

"Our goal is simply to bring closure to Phylicia Barnes' family ... and hold those responsible accountable," Bealefeld said.

The girl's father called the discovery of her body a "first step" in providing closure. But he said that the family won't be fully satisfied until justice is done.

"We're still not finished," Russell Barnes said. "We're going to find out what happened with Phylicia ... There are a lot of answers that we need to find out."

HLN's Natisha Lance contributed to this report.

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