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. pplplease

    please keep your posts short, otherwise I don't read 'em..... ah the 70's.. sesame street

    January 18, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. park

    those girls are slaves

    January 18, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. park

    those girls are slaves. don't fool yourself for a minute when you download a free video. I lived it. Those girls ... I shudder.

    January 18, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. unknown

    God has a plan that's why she disappeared. Pray for God to take more people because he has a plan

    January 18, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
    • trixen

      God has a plan for you to kill yourself, so I'll pray to God that you do. 🙂

      January 18, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rhonda

    I have been seeing this story in the news since it happened. I do not understand this and why race comes into play all the time. Why is it that people want to jump to that theory without knowing the subject? This has been on the news, I have followed since day 1 and care about this young girl even though I do not know her. I read daily on kids who dissappear from all different races. I do not think kidnappers care what race they take, harm or even murder. Who cares about what race this child is, she is missing and everyone should pull together and stop pulling eachother apart. To continually find reasons to pull race into a situation is an excuse to keep the race issue alive. Lets not forget the victims, and forget the race thing for once....geeeez!!!

    January 18, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rhonda
    and all you have to do is Google her name, its everywhere!
    Prayers for her and her family that she returns home safely.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. cookies

    we all bleed the same blood...i just pray they find the young girl...Dr Mlk Jr..would not be happy today....i pray for change...and everything is not always about black and white....geesh

    January 18, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. johnchan

    Blah, blah blah. What a bunch of nonsense. Race is such a bs card to play.

    January 18, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. ST

    I am not sure what they are talking about. I have seen this case on NBC and the locals around the DE/MD area. Not sure about CNN...but they have their own issues. This case has been in the news and receiving attention locally and on the network morning shows. If CNN has not done so, then that is up to them to police themselves.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. Over This

    Why does CNN allow of of these nasty and negative comments? Nobody's opinion matters in this case... just facts and finding this young lady and returning her to her loving mother. All other speculation and comments about race just expose the ignorance of the person posting and nothing else. Shame on you CNN.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. asdfa

    We have a black President. How is race still an issue like this?

    January 18, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. Judybee

    To everyone who is claiming that the "inadequate" coverage odf this case is because this young lady is African American can put that claim to rest. I am from Baltimore and can tell you that the coverage has been on one TV station or another since her disappearance. There are billboards, posters, amber alerts, etc. everywhere and police investigations have been ongoing 24/7. I have also seen coverage of this on a few other national stations. I also have a friend who is a senior detective with the Baltimore City police and not only have they called detectives in from other shifts but are getting assistance from police departments outside of the Baltimore area. Everyone needs to put the "race card" to rest and simply pray for the safe return of this young lady.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dustin

    Hey Don check this out...

    January 18, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tim McG

    Are you people really saying that the main stream media, which never misses an opportunity to exploit the issue of race by making frivilious, baseless accusations, is secretly racist? Give me a break.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. liza

    Is there any evidence that intense media coverage contributes to the outcome? Natalee Holloway is still gone right?

    January 18, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
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