Mother's heartfelt plea to get 'her baby back'
North Carolina honors student Phylicia Barnes, 17, disappeared three days after Christmas.
January 17th, 2011
02:34 PM ET

Mother's heartfelt plea to get 'her baby back'

Editor's note: CNN anchor Don Lemon talks about how the mother of missing 17-year-old Phylicia Barnes made an emotional plea for her daughter's safe return.

I first heard about Phylicia Barnes on Twitter and Facebook over the holidays.  The North Carolina high school honor student had gone to visit her half sister in Baltimore and disappeared three days after Christmas.

Viewers were asking why they hadn't seen her story on CNN. I didn't have an answer for them. Unfortunately, I was on vacation and spending time with my family. But I immediately began to research her story. I found a few articles in the Baltimore papers but not much else.

In those reports, police speculated that the lack of national media response was because the 17-year-old is African-American. They were calling it Baltimore's version of  Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba. But still not much national attention was given.

Case of missing N.C. honor student still a mystery

So, when I returned to work, I asked my producers to reach out to Barnes' family and police in Baltimore. Both agreed to appear on CNN to answer questions.

I met Barnes' mother, Janice Sallis, shortly before we went on air. She gave me a long hug and thanked me for covering her daughter's disappearance on CNN. Her grief was palpable. I couldn't imagine how she was even able to get out of bed and travel to CNN and appear on national television. She said it was only through the grace of God that she was able to make it through the past few weeks, not knowing where her child was and whether she was even alive.

Sallis told me and anyone listening that she believes her daughter is still "with us." Sallis said she believes her daughter is alive but fears she is being tortured somewhere.

And in a surprising moment, Sallis turned to the camera and made a direct and emotional plea to anyone with information on her daughter's disappearance. It was stunning and sad to watch. But I'm glad she did it.

Although police suspect the teenager would have received more coverage if she were white, her mother didn't want to dwell on that aspect. She said at this point race and social issues weren't important to her. She just "wants her baby back."

Let's hope that happens.

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Filed under: Maryland • Missing Children • TV-CNN Newsroom
soundoff (258 Responses)
  1. lazonia

    It's a shame how the color of your skin effect the media attention. The Barnes family love their Phylicia as much as any other person missed their love ones. The Barnes family are in my prayers as well as the others who is not getting the proper media coverage.

    January 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      I've seen this all over the news. What are you talking about?

      January 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • junior

      I too have seen it all over the news. As far as those commenting about that wacko Nancy Grace, just how many people watch that nut job, especially black people? Now I feel real bad for this mother, but who sends their child to relatives they have not seen or even known for years? And then what relative allows another to wander a strange city all by themselves? There is plenty of blame to throw around, but let's just hope she is found okay.

      January 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • SEB

      I think it's more than just race (although it is most likely a factor as even journalists have admitted this in the past). Here in Central VA we have a young lady missing since August, almost a year after the Harrington disappearance. To outsiders looking in there are similarities to the girls' appearance (in certain pictures) & it is within a reasonable distance to the same area. The police suspect foul play in Samantha Anne Clarke's case, but there has been very little news coverage of it, just old articles on that are occasionally updated. This is a small town with little crime in a rural area. To be honest the police are probably not very qualified to handle the case. While this missing girl is white the family is seemingly lower income level and just left hoping for Samantha's return. This girl disappeared from her home with no wallet/id, no change of clothes, nothing to say she took off (and police don't seem to believe she did). Honestly one would expect that the proximity & timing in regards to the Harrington case would help get exposure – but nothing not even as much as Phylicia.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • mechatronics

      Doesn't it get tired playing the race card?

      January 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohsnap

      It's getting more coverage now because one of the police officers (a white police officer) made a comment (out of frustration) that he couldn't understand why the news media wasn't covering this story. He wondered if it was because the missing girl was black. And for the record, I have read numerous articles addressing just this issue. Case in point...Shoshana Johnson, a black POW, held for 22 days by the Iraqis, shot in both legs in the same battle as...guess who? Ever hear of her? Probably not. But you have heard of Jessica Lynch, who the army now admits exaggerated her injuries for sake of the media. Nothing against Jessica, but yes, unfortunately, the media is biased. Jessica Lynch has 80% disability. Shoshanna 30% BTW.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      i am sure she will be found she is not dead she should be with amale companion in canada may be quebec,

      January 18, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
    • nick

      read det 28.37 balck people rise up and dignify yourself white do not wait for any one to do that for them

      January 18, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • tommy

      color has nothing 2 do with it stop your crying

      January 18, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Erica

      What is important here is that everyone join together and bring this beautiful young lady home to her family.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Two THOUSAND children are reported missing EVERY DAY.
      There are no particular racial patterns, no ethnic patterns, no religious patterns. The only thing in common is one thing: They're children.
      In an ideal world, there'd be equal treatment in the news for ALL of them. BUT, many are found locally or even quickly.
      THAT said, I remember hearing the story around Christmas time. Posting it as a news item in Iowa or California would be essentially useless, as she disappeared in Baltimore. She's most likely still in the Baltimore area.
      And the silence about her and no information regarding her whereabouts bode ill for her fate.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Wzrd1 you have to understand that this is a clear cut case of race. Racism is indoctrinated in our culture. I am white/middle class...and i have no problem admitting the problem. Segregation was only 50 years ago.

      There are 2000 kidnappings a year you said, but how many that get MASSIVE media attention are black? If you are not beautiful and white you are SOL. Look...even if you are white...but you are fat and ugly you wont get attention like Halloway or Ramzy.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Sure it's all over the news NOW! After the police finally said what so many don't and it made someone stand up and take notice. But it's true in too many cases! CNN doesn't usually show stories about missing black teenagers or missing fat women or missing men, because so many people just don't care! And it makes me sick. If someone is missing, it doesn't matter if they are young or old, black or white, fat or thin, ugly or pretty, male or female – they deserve equal media attention!

      January 18, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Stonewall J

      Sad, but true, when will it end? This Congresswoman has gotten over KILL in media attention...and yet none where needed...

      January 18, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Zee

      Thousands of people go missing everyday – quite a burden of reporting. Whether or not a big stink is made about a disappearance has quite a bit to do with the financial status/clout of the missing person's family, and very little to do with race. Racism is a harsh accusation – before flippantly wielding it, why not PROVE that the level of reporting this young lady did or did not receive is really due to racism or classism or an over burdened missing persons case load. Innocent until proven guilty – even when the accusation is racism.

      January 18, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Audrey

      This story has been on the CNN website for some time. I read about this young lady's disappearance some weeks ago, right here at CNN.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • kltobin

      I am not so sure it is a racial disparity as much as it may be socioeconomic. Two white teenaged girls had disappeared within 2 years of each other here in San Diego County. There seemed to be more local (or longer coverage and more hubbub) about the second girl. My husband and I commented how the first girl's disappearance got quite a bit less coverage and support and her family was not as well-off as the 2nd girl's. It seemed odd to us.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandy

      I'm with Daniel & Nicole. I have seen this all over the news, including CNN, from the minute that poor girl went missing. I have been following the case everyday. I pray for her safe return. Please don't turn this into something it isn't. Keep the focus on getting the word out so people can continue looking for. God bless.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kam

      It is most definitely race, class and gender and the police most certainly know it and are honest about it. Young, upper class, attractive white females who go missing are at the top. Black males at the very bottom, (and males in general save for children tend not to attract much attention). A white upper class female who goes missing will attract far more media attention than a white lower class female. We tend to pay more attention to who society believes is more vulnerable. We know this is true, the police know it's true even if we don't want to admit it.

      January 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Themonk80

    Nice how a completely speculative comment can now be referenced as fact. At least the author mentions that is was speculation on the part of a police officer. It woul dbe nice if readers commented on facts and not this divisive rhetoric. I'm sure by the time we get a few more posts it will be a major topic for diuscussion

    January 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bridgette

      @Themonk80 – Um...What speculation? The "fact" is we all know about the Laci Petersons and Natalee Holloways because their stories were indeed given wide media attention on an international level. Do you know who Nailah Franklin and Latoiya Figueroa are? I agree with Lazonia; it is indeed a shame - a crying shame - that the color of one's skin dictates the media coverage of missing girls/young women. They ALL deserve our attention.

      The Barnes family are in my prayers.

      January 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Re_Ria

      Just do you know race does play a role in this Phylicia went missing DEcember 28 and Hailey Dunn went missing December 27 and Nancy GRace has had Hailey Dunn story on every day since that date and she did a full 10day of coverage from 01-03-11 unitl 01-14-11 and not once was Phylicia Barnes mentioned until 1-14-11. And if you do not feel that minorities do not get the same coverage as white females just review the web and see how many you have never heard of that are missing but the white females you will recognize. It is sad the way of racism

      January 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • nheckt

      got a girl who is gone missing and you still have to Biotch about something. I don't remember anything in this story sticking out like Natalee's. disappeared a few hours before flight, that is why. Why don't you pray for the girl instead of biotch and complain to each other

      January 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hannah

      Re_Ria: dont you think its possible that the reason why Hailey Dunn was being covered was because she went missing first, and because she was so young? I remember when Jahi Turner went missing, and his story was covered for days, even though here in San Diego there was another little girl that went missing just a few days later, who I only saw breifly mentioned. Jahi was around a year old, and the girl was 8, and I think that made the difference. Hopefully Philycia is brought home soon.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Unfortunately, it is not just the color of your skin. You have to be rich too. How many people does that include nowadays?

      January 18, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      You're right klt – in that California case the first white girl to go missing was younger but her family was poorer, parents separated and she was brunette and a little emo looking and police dismissed it as runaway. The other one was older but blonde with wealthier parents and was known to have disappeared while jogging rather than apparently walking home from school. In fact if the killer hadn't confessed to the first crime they might never have found her body! Go figure.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Oops reply should have gone to comment thread above ^ .. it is not always just about race.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. S Callahan

    lLET THIS CHILD GO NOW...God knows all and is watching!!

    To the Mother of this child many of us are praying for you and your family and we were aware of your story before CNN came aboard (glad they did).. Be hopeful.

    January 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Grammar Ninja

    "Her grief was palatable." Lemon's poor editing leaves a bitter taste in my...palate. Hope they find Phylicia. Best wishes to her family.

    January 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      Glad somebody mentioned that – it bothered me, too.

      January 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • KRR

      1. Able to be touched or felt.
      2. (esp. of a feeling or atmosphere) So intense as to be almost touched or felt.

      He said exactly what he meant to say.

      January 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lainee

      It's Palpable not Paletable......two very diffrent meanings

      January 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      I guess you're not the grammar ninja you think that you are. The word is palpable and the author used it exactly as it is meant to be used. Moron.

      January 18, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Hannah

      Grammer Ninja was right. The story ORIGINALLY was posted with 'palatable'. It has since been changed.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. CrispyFrog

    I always wondered why people of color are never abducted or go missing. I can believe that the media is guilty of selectively covering the stories. A well-off blonde who walks off with a well-off sleeze bag makes a good story.

    January 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      The first person responsible for any person gone missing is the the Governor of the state. He/she took an oath to protect his/her citizens. Then on a local level, it is the mayor of a city. The overall person responsible on a national level is the President of the United states of America. He has been given horrendous murders in the last six months. Think of them, you know the cases. Look how one of the most hideous in Ohio was resolved. Life in prison watching television. That angered me. So you got Tucson and this president is talking about gun control! Laughable.
      There is a man. A creation of the devil who I will use to insure the number of women murdered in the future decreases by 75 percent forever, because I can't stop him. He will murder many many women in the NYC area before he is caught unless the immediate televised Shark Death penalty is instated in every state.
      If I were a woman in NYC area, the abduction assault murders are about to increase. He got someplace to put bodies. Do not go out alone for nothing. Oh and make sure you know the man you are with.
      Also remember, the mayor of NYC is a wealthy political sc*mbag who at times is a moron. He is downplaying this because he is more concerned about the city's image than women being abducted, tortured, assaulted and murdered.
      I will prove it to you. Someone show this to the mayor of NYC.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • alexash

      you're wondering this because it's never covered in the happens all the time

      January 18, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. SM

    I normally don't comment on these stories, but I think it is awful that some people automatically throw the race issue out there. This should not be about that at all, this should be about getting her back with her family.

    January 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lets be Real

    This story is splashed all over the news and I have heard it from several sources, so the speculation that if this poor girl were white there would be more media coverage is obtuse. I respect the mother for focusing on what matters, her daughters disappearance, and not the racial politic side-show the MSM loves to foment.

    January 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. onelife

    i honestly do bellieve in the race matter, if you arent white u wont qet media coveraqe. cnn has done well of coverin many many storiez, nothing to do with race! but when my sons father qot killed in 09 tha sherrifs & local abc news wouldnt respond to our plea for puttinq his death out there because of "stereo type" it was the help of our local community who would call in with tips & complaints & he qot a two sentence article in sacramentoz news! wow, two sentence. & here i am today raising a 2 year old boy alone with no answers for his questions of what happened to his father nor closure. im sure if he would have had media coverage his case would have been solved than, not a cold case !! may they find this young girl SAFE and alive!! or hope someone comes forward!!

    January 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • SM

      I am sorry for your loss, and hope that you get closure, but there are many people who have lost loved ones that have not been able to have complete closure as well... (all races). I just think that it is sad that it always get brought up in situations like this, when it shouldn't. The main thing it has been stated before, is getting her back to her mom. Period.

      January 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • denise

      sorry for your loss

      January 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      No it makes no difference, The fact is the window is 48 hours no matter what the woman's skin color is. The men who committ these horrible acts feel danger of being caught the longer they have the women or girls. That feeling occurs only after they have sat long enough thinking. In the first 24 hours they are busy assaulting their captive. Then they think and set about disposing of the body. When the 48 hour window closes, the monster's domain is back as it was before he took his victim and he goes to sleep.
      Can i stop them? No. All the amount of praying in the world will do good. But I can advice and save many lives in the future by telling how to get a man to think twice before he acts. If you get a man to think twice about doing something, then at least 50 percent (it is 76% actually) of them will not do it.

      January 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      correction: All the praying in the world will do no good.

      January 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim Brieske

    Failure to publicly punish murderers by immediately throwing them in a live television camera monitored glass tank full of sharks after they get the death penalty is why men continue to murder..
    I also blame President Obama for her most possibly likely death. For the past several months Obama has been given murder after murder to make punishment exteremely severe. He did not. Then a weak minded man was used to kill people of more value in Tucson. Did Obama change to immediate Shark death penalty? No. He is blaming guns. He is a fuking idiot, people. Really. Think about it. How do children learn to quit misbehaving?
    There is a NYC serial killer. Ran out of room in his yard and under his house to bury bodies of women. So he took some to the beach. How many murdered women does it take to get an immediate televised shark execution of a man? 10? 50? 100? 200? We'll see.
    My advice is to do as say. It can always very easily get worse.

    January 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • KRIS


      January 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • denise

      100% agree!!! Very well Said.....

      ..and not really related to what Jim said, but i live about an hour away from her hometown in NC and ive only heard about this young woman missing for the last week or so...not since Dec 28, and to mention her name around here doesnt ring a bell for most people unfortunatley, whereas Zahra Baker has been all over the news and a lot more people have heard of her and both young girls are only within an hour or so of each other....its sad that things like this keep happening...God bless both young ladies

      January 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • yoda

      Badly spoken, this is. Need a high school education, you do. Rambling, nonsensical, and semi illiterate, you posts are.

      January 18, 2011 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Not important

    This is being covered in depth at websleuths

    January 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steven

    Chili's should run with this.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tyredofit

    Really? No national coverage? Not been on CNN? How is it then that I, a resident of South Dakota, have been following this case since it happened, ON CNN? I am so sick and tired of people trying to twist everything and make it about race.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • B. A.

      To Tyredofit – I, too, in Florida have been following this ON CNN. I am wondering how the color thing lines up with the misguided complaints and misconstruction of the facts? Perhaps, people, it's not color but interest level and limited amount of space to cover every living problem or everyone's special tragedy.

      January 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      This has not been on CNN since the beginning... until the police spokesperson mentioned he desperately needed the national coverage to bring in a wider scope of tips, it wasn't mentioned at all. My friend is related to the missing girl, and I can tell u the coverage was NOT there. Rumors and speculation, yes, but not coverage. CNN is the ONLY major outlet who picked up the story after over a week passed. FOX and MSNBC were very slow to the table and eventually the Today show ran a story as well. As a white mother, I do feel that Phylicia lacked the same level of coverage that Hailey did, the girl in Texas. Also, I can't stand how they keep calling her the "honor student" as if it's reason to care and not assume she's a drugged out run away!? That said, as I have been obsessed with this since I first learned of it from my friend, I have been researching missing children in this country and it is AMAZING how many kids are missing and who never get to CNN at all. I am grateful that Phylicia is getting attention now, but I wish it had been sooner. I also wish that every missing child could get the wide- attention that helps them be found ASAP.

      January 18, 2011 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. courtney

    this scare me cuz im a black women so if i were missing or killed the media could careless yeah we are equal alright not when comes to getting justice and media attention 4 a black person only way a black person gets media attention if they committed a crime to me white people are selfish well anyway i hope they find her alive god bless her family black women take note protect yourself cuz if u come up missing your F****

    January 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. djmc

    This IS about race.when the amount of eyes determine if someone is found,and because of skin color those eyes are limited,its damn sure about officer of the law would speculate to that degree had he or she not had reason to.where there is smoke,there is a young white man,i do grow tired of racism,in all its forms,but this is not,spanish,chinese,doesnt matter,if your not white or Famous the media does nothing.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Susan

    I heard about this missing girl on a few different sites. Sometimes it just takes time. So many people go missing and it's hard to show a lot of media on ALL of them, black, white, or from any other nationality! I don't think it is anyone's intention to give less press to a black missing child than a white one and it's sad this was even mentioned. Sometimes I think racism will NEVER end because too many black people still think they are being treated with racism. There were many white and other races children who have gone missing and I guarantee the media has not covered a tenth of them! Not out of racism, but because there are so many missing children/teens and adults that we could run a 24-hour station showing these people. I think that would be a wonderful idea honestly, and am not sure why one does not exist already. That kind of television is necessary and should be put in place of some of the ridiculous reality shows out there. Sorry for the losses of this family and all others out there, OF ALL RACES. It's sad and it is even more sad that it will never stop.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
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