With No Leads, Baltimore Police Turn To Media To Help Find Missing Teen Phylicia Barnes Foul play is suspected in the case of a North Carolina teen who disappeared while visiting family in Baltimore in December. Police there say they have no physical evidence to help them find Phylicia Simone Barnes, now 17, and that their best bet is to keep her — and all other missing persons — in the national media.

Baltimore Police Look To Media To Find Missing Teen

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: NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES: Phylicia Barnes' cousin stands on a corner in the chilly sun, passing out flyers to the people hurrying in and out of the tall office buildings in downtown Baltimore.

M: Hi you all. We're still looking for her, okay?

U: You ain't found her yet?

M: Not yet, but...

KEYES: Despite freezing winds, many stop to chat with Harry Watson and to shake their heads over the red, black and white flyers he holds, with a picture of a fresh-faced, mahogany-skinned Phylicia Simone Barnes smiling in the middle of the page.

M: We don't pass up anybody. We try to get a flyer into just about everybody's hands we possibly can.

KEYES: Those same flyers are posted on the glass doors of nearly every building in the northwest Baltimore apartment complex where Barnes was staying. She had come here from North Carolina and was staying with her 28-year-old half-sister.

M: We've suspected foul play from almost the beginning.

KEYES: Anthony Gugliemi is spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department and says this case has been incredibly frustrating. Officers have searched much of the city, including homeless shelters and hospitals, state parks and security camera footage both from the apartment complex and the large shopping mall behind it. They've put her picture up on billboards along the I-95 corridor.

M: What we've tried to do since the very beginning of this case was make sure that Phylicia's picture and our toll-free hotline was put on every media outlet from Baltimore to Las Vegas.

KEYES: With help from the FBI, they've even used technology that would find heat signatures given off by human bodies. But they've found nothing.

M: We don't have any physical evidence to help us out otherwise. There's no forensics. There's no blood spatter. There's nothing to indicate that she was harmed in the apartment. We've used canine. We've used every resource at our disposal. Phylicia's trail goes cold at the front door.

KEYES: Her cell phone goes to voicemail. She hasn't used her debit card or gotten onto any social networks.

M: That was not in her character.

KEYES: Her father, Russell Barnes, says the high school honor student didn't know Baltimore very well. Police, and Phylicia's parents, say the best scenario is that she has been abducted, as awful as that could be, because the alternative would be worse.

M: We're just keeping hope going that Phylicia is missing, someone has her, and they're not letting her go.

KEYES: Phylicia's mom, Janice Sallis, is frustrated and furious. And police confirm that Phylicia isn't a troubled child who runs away or hangs with the wrong crowd. Her mother says she's a typical teenager who enjoys acting and having fun with her friends.

M: She has a loving personality. She doesn't like confrontation. She's just a peaceful person.

KEYES: Again, police spokesman Gugliemi.

M: I remember four years ago when the Holloway case came around. It's almost like we had a minute-by-minute update. CNN had a little ticker on the bottom of the screen, like everybody knew Natalee Holloway. They knew her picture. And why can't we know Phylicia Barnes?

KEYES: But Phylicia's mom, Janice Sallis, isn't concerned about complaints that her daughter's race has affected the media coverage. She just wants the police and media to work together and help find Phylicia. And Sallis has a message for anyone who may be holding her daughter against her will.

M: For whoever is holding her, I just feel sorry for them from God because they have no clue of what the punishment they are going to get.

KEYES: Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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