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. Reader

    As I remember the original CNN coverage of this story said some thing like 26 men passed through the step sisters dorm room, even a mention of drugs use. Quite a few suspects there eh?

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

    I only learned about this case via a bloggers website, about two weeks ago! She wrote about it DAY 1. Where was the media coverage then? Phylicia has been missing for almost 3 weeks now! I pray she's found soon!

    January 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reader

      Looks to me CNN started coverage of the story on January 4th 2011. With weekly and some times daily mention of the story when police made comment of the girl. So maybe it's not media but police that fail when keeping the story front page.
      My bad it was only 20 men.

      January 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fay bowden

    I have been following this story all along, expecially on the Nancy Grace Show. She covers it alot, so lets be fair
    about it.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Margie

    The citizens of this country need to start advocating for children and teens. There is an epidemic of evil people abusing and murdering children and we need to fight back!

    January 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cyrus Bishop

    You cant just throw something out there like "she did not get coverages because she is not white". There is no proof of that. Just is just some crappy publicity stunt. You could of said that she did not get the coverage because she was a woman or Catholic or left handed. But no... had to play the worn out race card with NO evidence of it.

    Come ON! At lease research it some... What police did they talk to?

    January 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. deejay

    I have been following Phylicia's story since it was first publicized, even tough I live very far from her home. Of course, I am hoping/praying that she is returned safely. She was visiting her older sister and there was some sort of party or people over. Please look at those people, someone must know something. I don't think this was random- check out everyone who came in contact with her. My heart goes out to her family- she's a lovely young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Keep her name and pictures out there.....

    January 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jea

    I saw this on Nancy Grace, 'CNN' more than once. If you had turned on CNN you would have seen this story and many more like hers.

    January 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      Nancy Grace took approx 10 days to cover this, whereas the cheerleader from TX was covered immediately and constantly. The two girls went missing within 24 hours of each other. If not race, then what other explanation?

      January 18, 2011 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. KO

    I would absolutely love to live in a world where race wasn't an issue. A world where I didn't have to check a box on a Census form to indicate my race, but I don't. The fact of the matter is media does influence how we view other races, and what will headline the ten o'clock news. There is so much more to people than skin color and stereotypes. We live in a country where our motto is "In God We Trust?. Does this country "Trust" that in the end, "God" will be pleased at how we've treated one another- the beings placed on this earth to carry out HIS will. Is there really "Liberty & Justice for All", and is Justice Truly Blind?

    January 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jerry

    I think it's probably true that the media reports less on missing black individuals.

    January 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brenda

    Whether people like her or not, Nancy Grace had this on her show very early on. She quite often reports about missing people–of all minorities. Personally, Nany occassionally comes across as mean and a bit b–chy, but she has done some good things for missing children–including the one from Virginia whose face on Nancy Grace helped a store employee recognize her and call the cops.

    January 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mmmmm

    a sorrowful tragedy...a big hand should slap the back of the head of the older half sibling with the alleged revolving doors. Seventeenies are happy exciting talkative people...not buying no one knows what has happen to this child.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Evelyn

    Wow i live in Maryland and have been following this story since Dec 28. My prayers go out to the family .and for a safe return home...

    January 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A Black Mother

    For those of you that think that race is not an issue... you have been blinded by the fact. MANY of times non-White cases are NOT reported. Whereas the media have any pick up on the coverage of those that have "pretended" to be missing. Our children (black) are NOT represented unless it is link to a sensational story line. I am thrilled that it has FINALLY been said for the media to report on more non-White missing children. We are still hearing about N.Holloway, and she didn't even come up missing our American soil. C.Anthony case has been drilled into our heads. I will give you a minute, what non-White case can you remember that was plastered across NATIONAL news when a child went missing? Most times non-White children just may get Regional or Local news. My heart goes out to this Mother, and family. I pray that she is found safe and unharmed. I am second the plea of the Mother. Just let her go. She belongs at home, enjoying high school, and preparing for college. This world needs this beautiful, intelligent young lady.

    January 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chitown

      Well, if you lived in Chicago, like I do, you would see a black missing child at least once a week, usually 2, 3 or 4 times a week in the news. Almost all have been found safe. Except the two little sisters from 1999 or around there. Roomed Bradley and her little sister. Oh, and the little boy that was killed by his dad and thrown in Lake Michigan just a few months ago...see. Race card doesn't need to be played. Many kids do not make the news. Many matter what race they are or the color of their skin is.

      January 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chitown

      And that was Tionda Bradley....right off the top of my head from about ten years ago. My phone just changed tionda to roomed and I didn't catch it.

      January 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sherri W.W.#1~ILLinois

    @JimB~Now you know as well as I do,that the President cant do a damn thing about the death pen.Thats up to each state.He also cant do a lot about getting the ban put back on magizines and certin other weapons.This has to come from Congress,and should be done within a day,but good ole John Boehner wont even le them TALK about anything sensible,no matter the issue! Its also like the Repubs completely forgot about JOBS! Too busy doing nonsense stuff to look busy! As for this missing girl,I pray for her safe return~and I doubt coverage has much to do with her race.If it does~THAT is NOT acceptable~ever.I suspect it usually has to do with how savvy families are about getting a lot of media coverage~some know how to do that better than others~and,they are already so upset it is hard to put plan together I am sure.

    January 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      Sherri W.W. Sorry you are wrong. He can sign an Executive Order instating the National Televised Shark Death Penalty for Murderers (NTSDPM) an hour after the death sentence is given.

      January 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Becky

    This has been on CNN's site. I just hope her mother finds her.Such a sweet girl and so smart. She has so much to give yet. I can't say I know how her mother feels, but I ask God to help her find her daughter and keep her safe. No mother should have to go through this pain. But sadly,there are so many mothers and families going through it. Check out project jason and you will see how many are missing. May her prayers soon be answered. And may she soon hold her child once again.

    January 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
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