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. Uhuru

    Quite an attractive girl – hope she is safe somewhere.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. nellie

    First of all, the story WAS COVERED on CNN a lot!! Nancy Grace and Jane V. Mitchell gave this girl loads of coverage. Secondly, I think to imply that this story was not covered because of the girl's color is divisive, confrontational, provocative, and crude. It was covered. The fact that she's black or not is irrelevant.
    It hasn't received the coverage that Natalee Holloway did because she was visiting family (NOT on a high school trip), she was in OUR COUNTRY (not in a foreign land), and the 'half-sister' she was visiting has been totally silent from the getgo. No pleas, no worries, no hysterics. It's odd. She had over 20 men in and out of the apartment- doing what? Let's try not to make this a race issue, especially when it's NOT. It's so tiring and UNPRODUCTIVE!! The girl is in my prayers.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. *Grizz

    I want my baby back baby back baby back... Barbecue sauce!

    January 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AR377

    According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children the following are are blond haired white girls who have gone missing in the past 6 weeks or so who I have not once heard about in the news. Not once.

    Sarah Jean Maples
    Victoria Mariable
    Julie Marie Marshall
    Sarah Paquette
    Alyssa Shirah
    Courtney Talbot
    Teresa Thorson
    Kaley Willbanks

    So your arguement was...what, exactly?

    January 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. helenhull102951

    Also, if anybody won't let racism die, that somebody are the people of color.. Odd how this race card is being played at this time, during MLK holiday.. Or that person is trying to get Mr. JESSE JACKSON and the rainbow crew all fired-up!! J.jackson is a MLK wanna-be, never gonna happen!!

    January 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CJ

    Just so you know the majority of people on welfare is not black or hispanic it is whites –

    Actually Re- RIa your are 100% wrong. The majority of people on welfare in the United States are Hispanics. google the statistics before you start lying on the internet.

    Now back to the subject of this girl. I am so sick and tired of hearing this crap about race. I wish, WISH they would re-segregate us so people would be able to blame their own race for their problems instead of the "white man" yall are pathetic! I dont care what color you are if MY child went missing, the world would know about it. bottom line.

    Oh and the people down here in Alabama are alot let crazy then the north and alot less racist than you would think. Hence why the majority of monirities live in the south. Common Sense people, please go find some!

    January 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dlee1

    The Mother will get less help because she is using the race thing. Law enforcement does not want to get involved in discrimination because of being sued, so the Mom would have a better chance of getting help if she left color out of the situation. If my daughter went missing I would not make a big deal of her color, I would just plead for my daughters safe return. Surely the step-sister knows something, what has she had to say about it? I cannot imagine the hell the mom must be going thru right now. Everyone that has left this stupid comment needs to keep their stupidness to themselves and just pray for her return.

    January 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • jps

      Read the article again. The other is not the one pushing the race thing. It's the media trying to stir things up. The mother just wants her daughter back.

      January 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truthasitis

      You need to re-read the article. The mother said NOTHING about race. When asked if there was no publicity because of her daughter, she responded with I will not dwell on that. I just want my baby back. Race can certainly be a factor in many situations, however, this mother is not pulling the race card.

      January 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. people get real I'm not weren't there so you don't know what that stupid lady told me. I had a friend with me too that heard he say this(she's black). And yes I went to the manager. But everyone says all white people on assistance I say bs not in my county(stephens,ga....94% are black and hispanics (so they say) my husband died on the job, I'm doing the best I can to provide for my 2kids, and no family to help. I just needed alittle help. And for the stupid lady that sat at her desk to tell me that....what is wrong with this world!!! But everyone loves to play the race card! And I hope that lady finds her daughter.

    January 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KKelly

    My heart goes out to this mother and her child. I am confounded though, as to why race is being discussed after the mother, so eloquently put the race "question" or "issue" to bed during her interview. It is clear to her and it should be for us all, that the only race we need to be concerned with, is the race to find this precious child, hopefully, unharmed. Also, I sincerely admire the strength and dignity in which this mother spoke about and to whomever and disturbed this young lady. In this, she showed that man alone will not punish alone, but an eternal punishment awaits.

    January 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. poop

    You're all morons. Whining doesn't find her. Get off the internet and look for her if you're really concerned. Or pump your fist and shove chicken down your throat while you watch Nancy Grace serve up ignorant plates o crap

    January 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WhatReallyMatters

    Race doesn't matter. Unfortunately, how attractive you are does. Kids are kidnapped all the time, but not every single white child is on CNN. They all do have something in common, they are all attractive. When it the last time your saw a story on CNN about an ugly kid that was kidnapped?

    January 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. poop

    I post what I like. My name is poop.

    January 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. a slozomby

    how about there was too much coverage of natalee hollaway.
    but i'll agree pretty white girl gets far more coverage than most anyone else.

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

    Where's Nancy Grace?

    January 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. David

    It is sad when I can't even get through half of these posts because of inarticulate morons who think they will change the world by forgetting about grammar and banging on the keyboard like a helmeted retard.

    Three women went missing in my area last year. Only one got media coverage, guess what.....she was black. The others were white. Nothing to do with money either. So if you fear your media won't cover it and pass it along national MOVE YOU MORONS. Stop crying about race when it is SPECULATED!

    January 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
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