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. DisgruntledGrrl

    Sadly – Holloway wasn't found either.

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

    This girl is young beatiful and country girl. Those guys in Balitmore were ugly dirty and city. They just had to have that young country girl. The mother should have never let her honor student go to visit such flith!!! That is the bottom line. We as parents need to use common sense and stop trying to get rid of our children for the holidays so we can get our "freak on" as it were. The mother should have investigated the living conditions of the half sister before she allowed her to go! 20 men in and out? How could that be missed if you did your research on this half sister. And where is she? Have not heard one plea yet from her to have her sister returned. She is gulity and so is the Mother! Bottom Line.

    January 18, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dori

    Not covered on CNN? I read about this right after it happened, on

    January 18, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. Megan

    I live in Baltimore and this story has been ALL OVER. There are multiple digital billboards with Phylicia Barnes' face and MISSING. I was actually suprised at how much attention the case was getting considering that tens of thousands of kids go missing every year. Nonethelss, I hope she is found alive and well.

    January 18, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Travis

    So many white racists people on Cnn today.. I'm leaving.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. color blind

    Lol I bet every "I'm tired of the race card" comment comes from rich white people. I'm white and its obvious to see that little missing white girls are covered more than little missing black girls. End of story.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nobodys fool

    Jim Brieske needs to be looked at by the FBI. His ramblings resemble Jared Loughners.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. StIves

    Children that goes missing is very serious! No matter who they, parents and adult teens must take it for granted that nothing will happen to them. Those that take children should stop creating problems and trouble for themselves. If we can have a little peace and respect for one and other; all children who are taken, please let them come back home to their families and let's all live with each other. taking children and teens do not do anybody any good; in fact, we all suffer from situations such as this. Please let the youunglady go so she be with her family. Thank you!

    January 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nicole

    Where do you guys live? I live in Michigan and hear about this story daily!!!! It has nothing to do with race! I really wish all people would stop using this excuse!

    January 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • KristeninDC

      I live in DC and sitting in my office with my officemate (who lives in Rockville, MD) we were shocked that we have heard absolutely NOTHING about this case, which is odd given our proximity to Baltimore (I've been there for concerts; it's a scary place, in my opinion)

      Is this about race? I don't know. But what has media attention done really? The most televised cases usually turn up nothing anyway, so perhaps it doesn't really matter? Perhaps it isn't about the results though, but rather the intent or the level of care/concern displayed by the media for a missing child (regardless of race, attractiveness, or socioeconomic status). All I do know is that this is sad.

      I don't know why people act like race still isn't an issue. It is. People who complain about the race card, want people to ignore the state of our country, which is increasingly bigoted and scary. The term "race card" is used to demean someone's struggle. Like, I said, I don't know if the lack of media attention (which based on comments is a location-by-location issue) is a result of race, but people have a right to question: why? And the total dismissal of their chosen answer with an eye-roll and some buzz words doesn't help anyone. It just throws your character and motivations into question.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rob

    If this girl was blond and cute she would be all over the news, on Nancy Grace, and headlining news websites. But she is not blond and white, so she won't get the coverage – sad – but that is the way it is...

    January 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mark H.

    I read about this SOOOOO long ago..right here as a matter of fact..on CNN!!! So what is the author talking about?!? There is no reason AT all to bring up race and all thoes who do should feel shame.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidMichael

      Typed in her name and got 7 articles from various dates, including two weeks ago.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      Mark, the story was on Headline News, a CNN affiliate. And unfortunately, the amount of attention that a story gets does tend to still fall along the lines of race – iif your hair is blond and your eyes blue – your case garners attention first. Sad, but true!

      January 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark H.

      Thats funny Tracy because I don't even know the web address for CNN headline news. So were did I read this then? Surely it wasn't at the racist foxnews (although it was there too, weeks ago). That arguement is all semantics anyway and a last grasp at straw...sadly I think deep down you realize that too.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark H.

      Thats funny Tracy because I don't even know the web address for CNN headline news. So were did I read this then? Surely it wasn't at the racist foksknews (although it was there too, weeks ago). That arguement is all semantics anyway and a last grasp at straw...sadly I think deep down you realize that too.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • AR377

      Headline News is not an "affiliate" of CNN, it is a part of CNN. They are owned by the same company and filmed and broadcast out of the same building.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • AR377

      Not to mention I've read about this story on several times in the past few weeks.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blkgirl_Baltimorian

      The below comment was posted regarding this discussion...race isn't a factor huh??
      baltimore...most violent and dumbest city on the east coast.....
      And the blacks of baltimore are just as sick and perverted as the whites of alabama.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark H.


      was this comment posted from ANYONE at CNN?!? What point are you trying to make? That racisim still exists? Guess what? Your right!!!!! It does!!! and it exist on BOTH sides of the fence from individual people, not from a goup of people. Thinking otherwize is basicly the definition of racism. Facts are facts, this story is basicly stating facts that arn't true to fuel emotions in people because they know that makes a better story than a missing girl white, black or otherwiize.

      January 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • THX

      Agreed. Playing the race card on a missing persons report isn't going to generate sympathy. How many teens close to her age have been reported missing in the past 2 weeks? How many of them got coverage on CNN? MOST missing teens – especially ones close to her age – DON'T get coverage, even locally. Every day teens run away or are abducted. If the news sites covered all of them, there'd be no room for any other stories.

      January 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blkgirl_Baltimorian

      You are contradicting yourself…in one post you speak about a pulling a ‘race card’, then you state that “What point are you trying to make? That racisim still exists? Guess what? Your right!!!!!” So if racism still extist, then logistically so then would the pulling of a ‘race card’.

      I don’t know any ‘goups’ of people, and ACTUALLY the TRUE definition of racism:
      -“a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.”

      You people (I have always wanted to use that phrase) go on and on about the equality of the missing when dozen of dozen our (and yes…I mean BLACK) kids go missing with not so much of a glance; thought of to be as insignificant and forgettable as a cough. But hey…if its not in the suburbs, on your soccer fields, or near that new Starbucks…who cares white…I mean right?

      January 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Once again, it's the race thing. Okay, how about the white family in Akron who was attacked by close to 50 black teens a couple years ago. I don't remember the national media touching that one. Maybe that was because the victims were white, you think???

      January 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark H.

      I always know that its probablly a waste of time discussing something with them when part of their debating technique involves picking apart easly recognizable typos or spelling errors....SO sorry, I meant "group". I know that missing "r" shoots gapping holes in my point. While we are bringing up mistakes:
      "So if racism still extist, then logistically so then would the pulling of a ‘race card’.
      Can you reword this so I can even attempt to respond?
      On to your other points not involving typos (lets not do that anymore ;))....How do you know where I fields? How racist of you to assume that! Its been proved to you that this was brought up weeks ago, that the article was using the mention of race to fuel emotions in not be foolish enough to fall for that kinda of garbage. Do you know how many teens went missing today, white, black, spanish, asian that won't EVER get mentioned on CNN? There is no conspiracy here, no agenda against whites, black, asian or whatever, just some "individlual" that decided his story would be a lot more read if he threw in the "bait" that you bit. Thanks for the "you people" comment and looking up the definition of racism for me. Its still make no difference in what I posted.

      January 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JohnMcLaugh

    God takes punishment tips? I have a few for glenn beck! 😀

    January 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. people get real

    Ok if u people want to play the race card....I got a good one for u.....there are A LOT of missing kids of any race, why don't they get media attention?? And another thing I'm a single white mother of 2 my husband died on the job,I work everyday 2 jobs just to make ends meet, when I went to get assistance, even though my income is with in the required income bracket they refuse me and my children. I asked why she plainly said because I'm not black or Hispanic. Now that's messed up!!!

    January 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnMcLaugh

      shave your eyebrows. draw a thin black line with where they used to be. go apply again.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Re_Ria

      So you really want us to believe someone told you that you were eligible for assistance, but because you are white you can not have it. Just so you know the majority of people on welfare is not black or hispanic it is whites it was set up for whites during the World Wars. But if this is the case are we to believe that you just walked away, did nt file a complant nor complain naming the person or persons who told you that you qualify but since you are not black or hispanic you can not have the funds. You sound really stupid for saying this. And so you know I am White also do not receive assistance but have plenty of friends who do and they are white.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • headjazz

      Now, imagine how a single white man feels when his child is ripped away by the mother and you are helpless to do anything about it. All because I am a MAN! Women rule family courts, the media, medical and welfare benefits, mental health, etc, etc,. So, when a woman goes around crying because "her baby" is missing, I somehow am not too sympathetic for her grief. Karma eventually gets you!

      January 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Burbank

      You should report that to the ACLU.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chocholate

      That obviously was a racist reply on the part of the worker, not true though. I have worked for the state government system, and believe it or not, there are more Whites on welfare than blacks, remember blacks are the minority, not majority!!

      January 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chocholate

      No one wants to play the race card, it's just a fact of life. If you have not been discriminated against or experienced racism, you would not believe it exists, but it does in so many different forms!

      The most important this is to find this missing child, like the mother said she's not harping on whether or not there was enough coverage because her child is black, she just wants to find and get her baby back! God bless this country!!

      January 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • MizzGivens

      Are you on crack? Quit whining ...

      January 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |

      If that is true it definately needs to be reported. There are strict laws against discrimination in this country!!!!!! It is hard for me to believe that someone working for a government agency said that.

      January 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • sm

      So not true.

      January 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Alanna


    January 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sharon

    Please just take moment to ask God to help us find this girl alive and well. I am praying right now, as a mother myself, that her mother's pain be eased and she will find relief in seeing her daughter alive again. Let us bury the racial hatchet right now and come together in prayer for another human being. Don't give these perpetrators any strength.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • billyfrankocrap

      I am also praying right meow

      January 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • riley

      I totally agree with you. However, "they" wont bury the hatchet. Whenever "they" don't get what they won't, when "they" won't it, how "they" think it should be got, they throw the race card out there b/c that trumps all reasons. It will always draw more media attention when "they" use that card, regardless if it is true or not. Racism does still happen but not as much and in every case. I was not there 50 yrs ago but I still like I am being punished now for what happened then. On a positive note, My black friends, think that playing that card is getting old. They are intelligent people who see white people as just like them and don't automatically assume "we" hate them and become automatically defensive for NO reason. They know racism exists with EVERY color but it how you deal with it that makes people really respective the efforts to change it.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • headjazz

      That is a joke right?

      January 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
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