Yesterday, the body of Phylicia Barnes was found floating amidst the flotsam in the waters feeding the Conowingo Dam. Like so many, I have spent more than a little time thinking about her disappearance. I live approximately 3 miles from the apartment where Phylicia was visiting and where she was last seen alive and as the days and weeks unfurled, I found myself driving around the apartment complex and noting it’s unique geographic dynamic. It is essentially sandwiched between the Reistertown Road Plaza-a strip mall; and a MARC Train station. It has that weird mixture of lots of people moving around shopping, living, and being able to come and go quickly via the rails. I don’t think that there is some diabolical mastermind consciously exploiting these elements but I will say that the perpetrator has been able, albeit unwittingly, to make the most of all these realities. More than likely, the killer is someone known to Phylicia and now that Police have found her body a charge might be pending. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is probably performing the autopsy as I type this. We shall see.
It is worth noting that there are many homicides that go unsolved every year in this city. In David Simon’s seminal work, “Homicide: A Year On the Killing Streets”, he writes that one Baltimore homicide detective refers to Baltimore as “the home of the misdemeanor homicide”; highlighting the difficulty in getting first degree murder convictions even when the killers ARE caught. It also speaks to the fact that there an inordinate amount of homicides in this city and that leads me to possibly the weirdest thing about this case. Not far from where Phylicia was found, another body was found, that of a black male. As of now, Baltimore Police can’t determine if there is any connection to Phylicia. Please note on the case timeline that appears in the Baltimore Sun, that while searching Patapsco State Park for Phylicia, a corpse was found. Of course, not Phylicia’s and not related to the case. As far as I know, they still haven’t identified that body. In every conceivable way, this case is a stonecold whodunnit. I have included the case timeline in this post. Please review.
It’s interesting that Phylicia was found at the Conowingo Dam. It’s fed by the Susquehanna River and it would be the first time in my memory that a body has been found there. The Susquehanna does not flow around Baltimore. I can think of no way that Phylicia could end up in the Susquehanna other than the killer made the 60 mile drive from Northwest Baltimore to the river. This would show some murderous moxie on the part of the killer. In Baltimore, it’s normal to dump bodies in municipal parks, Leakin Park, Herring Run, Druid Hill and of course Patapsco State Park, which, oddly enough, is where they shot much of, “The Blair Witch Project”. Did the killer or killers drive Phylicia to the Susquehanna and kill her there? Was the other body found a person who was in on the abduction? The mind reels.
The Baltimore Police Department is staffed with some of the more gifted Homicide Detectives in the world. Someday, remind me to tell you of Tom Pellegrini who, after leaving the Baltimore Police Department’s Homicide unit, went on to investigate the mass graves, ethnic cleansing and war crimes in the wake of the war in Croatia. Tom Pellegrini began his career in Homicide with the case of a murdered 8 year old girl named, Latonya Kim Wallace. She was found in an alley in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood a few blocks from her house. He never solved that case. That case also became the first featured case on the NBC series, “Homicide:Life on the Streets” that was inspired by David Simon’s book mentioned earlier in this post.
For all the Phylicia Barnes and Latonya Wallace’s and their families, I hope for a resolution and long for a day when we can all be a little less frightened for our children.