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. marisa

    You people who constantly make every story about race are pathetic. Focus on the fact that she's a human being who disappeared probably because her half-sister was hanging around with dirtbags. And as for you idiots that blame Obama (or even bring his name up in this story) you are ABSOLUTELY STUPID! You don't deserve to be an American after bashing the President for something that has NOTHING to do with him. Get a life.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Troy from S'port

    I'm a 47yo white male and I just have to say that those of you commenting that race is not a factor are fools. If the missing person is not white then they do not get as much (if any) media coverage. Of course missing females get more attention than missing males; and if blonde hair and blue eyes are involved news coverage is nearly 24/7.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. East Coast

    How there is any correlation whatsover between a girl who goes out of the country, alone, on a trip post-graduation and a girl on vacation with her family a few states away is beyond me. There are thousands of missing children and vulnerable adults every DAY. Skin color has nothing to do with it. It's people and their continuous obsession with making race an issue.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. MHarrell

    I've been following this tragic story on Nancy Grace for days. Her mother was on Nancy Grace.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. S. Morgan

    look how many children are missing in a day. in the matter of hours. of all races. i believe this has nothing to do with race but the fact that it is a constant repeat of what is now considered "everyday news". if we could do what this journalist did for all the children missing, what would be the difference?? its understandable that she wants people to hear her out and bring her child home (who wouldnt) but she's not the only mother making these pleas. I send my regards to Ms. Sallis and her family because no mother should feel that way. but at the same time....shall i send my regards to the other 5 million mothers??? I will pray for them and hope they find her.

    January 18, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. NH Mom

    I am praying Phylicia comes home safely. I'm praying for Janice Sallis, too. Many Americans have you in their thoughts. God bless and stay strong.

    January 18, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    She wants her baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back, Chili's baby back riiiibbs! Barbecue Sauce. She wants her baby back riiiiiiibs!

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

      They do love their ribs!

      January 18, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Judybee're absolutely disgusting!!!! Hope nothing tragic ever happens to you or your family. You should be ashamed.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Saddened

    It is absolutley heartbreaking to read about so many missing children. How did our society get to this point?

    January 18, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Zoltar

    It's aliens you mamby-pamby jackwagons! They are taking us every day!!

    January 18, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. BaltoNative

    What saddens me SO much about this situation is that the mom probably had no idea what kind of area her daughter was visiting. I've lived in Baltimore my entire life, and I'm approaching 60. I grew up in the area where the apartment complex is. While it was a nice area and apartment complex when I was a teenager, it has grown to be a drug ridden area, and there is nothing safe about that complex. Here is a successful mom with a daughter who is likely to be extremely successful if she is still alive (which I doubt). She had no clue about the inherent danger of her daughter's "vacation" destination.

    This has been much publicized in the Baltimore area in addition to the FBI having been called in. And, I have read about it on CNN and other new sites.

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

    It is not playing the RACE CARD...if it is a FACT...THAT is called RACISM...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 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    I guess the best thing you can do at this point, is repost this story so more and more people will read it, I wonder how many missing people or abduction reports news stations are aloud to report on. I hope they find her alive and well.

    January 18, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Another Mom

    Holy crap! Does EVERYTHING have to be about race?! In Kentucky, there was a young white boy and a young white girl who were horrifically tortured, forced to drink bleach and then burned alive by 5 BLACKS and there was NOTHING REPORTED ANYWHERE! If it has been a white on black attack and murder, that clown Sharpton and his posse of f'ing idiots would have jumped all over that. So, don't sit there whining that you're black and ignored or that nobody's looking for this child because she's black. That's total bulls$#@ and you know it. You play the race card and people tune you out, believe me. Whites are not in the minority. Do you hear us whining and crying about that. So shut up.

    January 18, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Another Mom

      I meant to write that whites are NOW in the minority and we don't cry and whine about it. Not everything is about race.

      January 18, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      If she was white, blond and cute she of course would be all over the news and the coverage would be what is for white, blond, cute girls. It is not about race really – an ugly white girl isn't going to be covered very much either – white, blond, attractive girls are just more news friendly and look good in the photos.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. f16bmathis

    This is a story about CNN doing a story? Really!!!?? Where was she last seen, who was she with, whats the story about the girl?

    January 18, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  15. Anony-mouse

    If you're going to call the president black, you might as well go ahead and call him white. He says he's half and half so he might as well be called another white president. HA!

    January 18, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
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