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. riley

    I have read a lot of articles and seen this story and rerun several times. I think that the reason we don't continue to see it on the news or more articles is that there isnt much or any new things to report. They don't have a suspect, their not interviewing anyone, there are no search parties, the family isnt doing a group search or getting together and holding a candle light memorial, she hasn't been found or lying in a hospital improving/declining in her condition. So lets just look at each individual case before we call in race related. Most people don't just say they want their child to come home, they get out and do and look and look, as in the Laci Peterson and Natalie Holloway stories. They don't sit at home waiting for just the media to find their child. That is the deference. Also, @Stonewall J wrote "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..." IT SOUNDS LIKE TO ME YOU ARE JUST AS RACIST HAS YOU CLAIM OTHERS TO BE! She has a right, just like this girl, to have media coverage. This congress woman shouldnt be "punished" because of someone calling another situation race related. I hope the congress woman recovers wonderfully AND I hope the missing teenager is found safe. My prayer is for both of them!

    January 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cameo

      The family actually holds vigils every Tuesday, faithfully & regularly. I feel as though people use race as a scapegoat, it does not matter what color this child it, the fact of the matter is she IS a child & is missing. There is absolutely no reason that negativity should be allowed when it come to missing person cases, in my opinion.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brads Girl

    You know what? ENOUGH W/ THE D*MN RACE CARD ALREADY!!! We get it.

    The most important thing here is that SHE COMES HOME ALIVE. Can we all just agree on that?! Let's bring her home. Alive. Safe. Healthy. Period.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      You got that right!

      January 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. evrgreen

    I am confused: I did read an article from CNN online about this missing young girl. I remember because they showed a picture of her and I admired her beautiful they did not ignore this case. They did talk about it.
    I am sure CNN is above the race or color differences.
    May God give this mother the chance to get her daughter back.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |

      Nancy Grace on Headline News reported it. She is a beautiful, intelligent person. I pray that she will be returned safely to her family.

      January 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. evrgreen

    Sorry about the single mother of two who posted here that she was denied help at her local social service because she is not african american or hispanic...whoever told you that should be fired...that statement us dead not believe all you are told. Ask for a manager and fight your case...if you really think you qualify for assistance.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tamika

    some of you people are being very childish wat if this were you or any of your familymissing you would not be leaving comment talkin bout some chillis grow up and get a life

    January 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • riley

      I agree with you! He is probably some unemployed, old, big man sitting in front of his computer who's description info on Facebook is, 30, thin and good looking, working at IBM.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bri

    hmmm.... 17. Maybe a guy convinced her to run off with him. Wouldn't be the first time.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane W

      That is what I was thinking to Bri

      January 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dave

    how about the fact that nat holloyway was on vacation...this girl was at a siters house where 20 men visited the apartment throught out the day...that is a a dangerous life deal with outcomes like that.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. helenhull102951

    Here we go again. Why do any of these stories have to be about Black and White? I've seen this story on CNN for some time now, so to say that people of color don't get the same coverage that whites is redundent. The black people play this card just to get more coverage from the media!!! Now who's making it about race? If it's the parents of this poor child, then shame on you. No one knows the real story here, maybe this girl ran away because her mother was beating her or maybe she split with her crack dealer or maybe she went to find her father that left when she was young! My point is that the full truthfull story is not fully known. But if she was kidnapped, then we should all be praying for her safe release and for the family and friends close to her... And if she was taken against her will, then to the person or persons that have her know this, "GOD SEES AND KNOWS ALL" and if the law finds you and does what they usually do which is nothing, you will ultimately have to face GOD !!! Satan loves people like you.. Always remember this.... *Wayne*

    January 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mrs Trimbold

    I also saw this on HLN , the Nancy Grace show. There was also another case regarding an african american girl that has been shown a lot on HLN.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. paul in texas

    ok we now know she's missing. but don't you think you could have given us the story about it, instead of the reasons why it wasn't covered on the news. LETS BRING THIS GIRL HOME TO MOM FOR PETES SAKE!

    January 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mrs Trimbold

    I agree with Brad's girl , get rid of the race card, it has nothing to do with the cases of these poor female victims. It's ridiculous.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Enough Already

    You folks know good and well that if this person was white, it would constantly be in the news. It's a historical fact. It's not a matter of playing the "race card". I find that term is used often when folks want to deny what's true. It's gotten so that whenever I see a Caucasian missing, I pretty much ignore it because it's a story that goes on and on. With people of color, it's a blurp on the news and nothing else is said about it. A lot of folks are in denial about what truly goes on.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark H.

      You ignore when a white person goes missing and you feel completely justified with that yet you are going to pass judgement on this stroy even after countless posters have been telling you that IT WAS POSTED WEEKS AGO?! I guess somewhere in you're self-serving mind that makes sense.

      January 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • you're right

      you're right blacks everywhere should rise up over their white neighbors and co-workers and demand more rights over other races, they should storm the media, highlight race at every point and turn possible. they should continually discuss and call discrimination...because after all it is making such huge strides in changing the racial tensions in this country and promoting better equality...oh sorry i had that all continually worsens the tension and creates a class of people (NOTE I DIDN"T SAY COLOR OR RACE) that believe that they are owed something, it creates anger and worsened racism on both sides....the past cannot be changed the present and future is what matters...move on and live your life and stop blaming and callin race foul at every chance....and of course i don't like President Obama JUST cuz he's black because what other reason is there not to like the "saviour" of our country right????

      January 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • you're right

      As a side note: isn't it equally as horrifying and racisit to everyone else reading the above comments that this commentor glosses over a report of a missing white child because he or she feels the get to much coverage...shame because what if you had seen that poor missing "WHITE" child....only to not recognize them because you simply couldn't stand to see ANOTHER missing white child covered...but yayy thats justice for all those black children who "didn't get the coverage"...back at ya white folks

      January 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. St.Cloud

    I live in the historic district of Mount Vernon in the heart of Baltimore. To the credit of the Baltimore Police, they have been canvassing my neighborhood among a few others, and the family has been circulating fliers with the photo above (I have one at my home).

    Unfortunately, I believe this poor girls abduction failed to garner national headlines due to the proximity of her disappearance relative to the holiday, and by the time she was actually declared missing and the story began to gain momentum; it was once again usurped by more recent headlines and the 'Tragedy in Tucson.'

    January 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blkgirl_Baltimorian

      Thank GOD, a fellow Baltimorian. I'm in the Druid Hill Park area, and the police have been out, I will give them that. Its just sad. She made high marks in school, was attractive...such a waste.

      January 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lorne

    My comment was a reply to "Joe in Colorado". I hit the reply button but it posted separately. How can anyone with any decency post stuff like that? I gotta stop reading comments. It makes me despair for my country.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. The Mayor 1975

    This poor mom I would never want ot walk in her shoes. The not knowing must be so hard!

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