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. Siege

    I pray for her safe return. I pray for her mother and other loved ones and feel so sad about Phylicia's disappearance. I cannot imagine the agony of having a child missing. God Bless Ms. Sallis!

    January 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HawaiiGal

    Don, it is wonderful that you ran with this story. And thank you CNN for carryiing it. Every time a story runs it may help to bring a child home. It does not matter how many times an article about this child may have run on CNN. Only that it is kept front news until someone has leads on what happened to her.

    January 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. blah9999

    Mom's plea: 'I want my baby back'
    baby back, baby back, baby back. Chili's baby back ribs.

    January 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disturbing

      That is so not nice.

      January 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mark H.

    I leave these comments feeling even worse about race relations..congrats CNN you got attention but at what cost? Bottom line if anything good comes from this disgrace of an article, its that Phylicia will be found because of it.

    January 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. swaregirl

    test

    January 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Yvonne

    Here is the thing that hardly anyone thinks about. It also depends on the location of the missing child and how many children are missing. When my beautiful (white) 14-year old daughter went missing after school in Los Angeles, the cops filed a report but did nothing else. No APB and no investigation whatsoever – not even a phone call to the friend I thought she might be with. I was astonished because I thought they did something besides push paper. When I asked about it, the police asked me if I knew how many children were missing in Los Angeles.

    It turned out that she ran away but there was nothing in her past to indicate she might (she and a bunch of friends did it on a whim to see who would last the longest without being caught but I did not find that out until she returned ten days later and the police had no way of knowing as her friends lived in another part of town and did not file a report in the same police station as I did).

    Another thing is the political savvy of the parent. Do they know how to elicit media help? Media obviously brings attention to the case.

    January 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. erib baumen

    Impeach obama he is an alien hail ron paul

    January 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. erib baumen

    we should all move to china i hear there hiring

    January 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. erib baumen

    If nancy didnt have a kid to find she would die makes money from abduction

    January 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hally

    I think everyone is forgetting that its a teenage girl who is missing. White, black,orange or blue this girl has not been found yet. I think everyone is so caught up on proving a point and going back and forth with each other. We should be praying for this beautiful girl and her family.

    January 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. poop

    If it was my sister I would be sittin here like I am now, on the toilet talking about my poop. I wish you all could see it. A little hard, but still easy to enjoy. Dark brown but the media won't cover it...

    January 18, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. roytan

    @Riley I love the way you speak in generalities about both black and white people as if they really do all act the same and believe the same things. If you honestly hold these stereotypes to be true than you are by definition a racist individual. You sir are an absolute idiot and I am ashamed for you.

    January 18, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Spidey-Man

    It's not a matter of whether she's black or white in the case of getting in the headline news...
    Everyone's values are warped.
    You're more concerned about fat a$$ed oprah quitting her show.
    You're more concerned about lindsey lohan and her little legal circus.
    You're more concerned about who got voted off of american idol.
    And now regis philbin's retiring... So look out for vomit inducing news about that.
    S[eaking of vomit... Did I mention fat a$$ed oprah?
    These are the headlines these days.
    Pitiful state of affairs if you ask me.
    I stay focused... But if this is all they put in the news... How are we supposed to know about the really important things going on out there?

    I for one am more concerned about this young lady and all the others missing out there.
    Am I alone?

    January 18, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nurse2064

    This is why people of color are up in arms. This happens over and over. http://hubpages.com/hub/APPEALING-FOR-RACIAL-BALANCE-IN-HIGH-PROFILE-MEDIA-STORIES-ON-MISSING-PEOPLE. I will pray for the safe return of this beautiful young lady and her family.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Disturbing

    Im reading all of the comments above and I think at this point race is neither here or there. What is being disussed will not solve or bring her back sonner. The good thing is The story has gotten attention or we would not be discussing it right now. With everything it is a process. I believe the Baltimore City police as well as the FBI is overlooking what could be the very obvious. For myself, family means a whole lot to me but I would never send my daughter alone to stay with family members I know nothing about or how they live or what type of traffic goes in and out of their househould. Im a protective mother as well and not knowing the answers to those questions is a RED flag for me. Phylicia obviously did not know her father well nor the siblings. For all we know, something terrible went wrong amongst the three of them and they are covering it up. I mean has the father been checked out? Have they thoroughly questioned the half sister's story as well as the so called boyfriend. Its just too strange to hear. The child visiting a relative and on the day she was to return home she goes out to the store & to get her hair cut alone, by herself not being accompanied by the relative??. How would she know where to go to get her hair cut? Was she this familiar with the area? No one leaves home especially young kids today without there cell phone. I just don't buy the story at all. Its quite disturbing. The people in Baltimore are shady. Ive come to learn that the morales and values of the people of Baltimore are just not there. I feel for the mother and can imagine all that she is going through. Unfortunately, this is bad and nothing good is to come.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
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