Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Second Body Found In River Not Linked To Phylicia Barnes Case

Jessica Anderson
 The Baltimore Sun

The body of a Virginia man found less than four miles from where Phylicia Barnes' body was spotted has ended in another roadblock for investigators, who said Tuesday that the two deaths are not related.

Darryl Harper, 53, of Richmond, Va., was identified as the man found the same day that Barnes' body was pulled from the Susquehanna River on April 20. But investigators said they have found nothing to connect him to the teen or to her disappearance, according to Maryland State Police.

Detectives "were looking at this case as it was — two people who were found dead. They needed to determine how they ended up that way. I don't know that there was any kind of hope" that they were connected, state police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley said Tuesday.

"Investigators look at these things matter-of-factly," he said, adding, "They will continue to gather additional details on what led to his death."

State police matched fingerprints from Harper with prints entered in the National Crime Information Center database for missing persons. Police said Harper, who had been reported missing by his wife, had stayed at a hospital in southern Pennsylvania for mental health problems and had a history of attempting suicide.

Barnes, who would have turned 17 in January, went missing from her half sister's Northwest Baltimore apartment three days after Christmas. The search for her drew local, state and federal police into an investigation that baffled detectives, who, along with volunteers, searched through the city's Leakin Park and Patapsco Valley State Park.

Last week, crews working on the Conowingo Dam reported a body floating in the river; the body was identified as Barnes. She was found naked, without obvious signs of trauma to her body. Several hours later, boaters reported finding Harper's nude body in the river south of the dam, which prompted speculation that the two deaths might be related.

City police, who led the Barnes investigation for months, as well as the girl's family, said they had no reason to search the area around the river, which divides Cecil and Harford counties.
Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that identifying Harper was "an alley … we have to explore. At least now we can rule that out."

He said 12 state troopers are continuing to investigate Barnes' death, alongside city homicide detectives who have worked the case for months.

"Now we can focus on her death investigation. The next step is the cause of death," Guglielmi said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not yet determined the cause and manner of death for Barnes and Harper, as they continue to perform tests. Dr. David R. Fowler, the state's chief medical examiner, would not comment further, citing the pending investigation.

Shipley said detectives are investigating the death of Harper, who was reported missing by his wife on April 15. She told police she last spoke to her husband in mid-March.

She told Richmond police that her husband left that city in early March to move belongings from their former apartment in Cockeysville. The couple moved to Richmond in February.

On March 25, she told police that a relative, who lives in the Harrisburg, Pa., area, called to tell her that Harper had checked himself into a mental health facility in Pennsylvania.

Police confirmed that he stayed in the hospital one night. According to his wife, Harper had told a relative in March he was going to jump off a bridge. She said her husband had attempted suicide in 2006.


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