BALTIMORE -- Jury selection continued Thursday in the murder trial of Michael Maurice Johnson, with the courtroom closed to the media for the third straight day.
Johnson, 28, is accused of murdering Monroe teen Phylicia Barnes in December 2008, when the Union Academy high school senior was visiting her half-sister in Baltimore.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance ordered the courtroom closed to the media when jury selection began Tuesday, saying there was not enough room for everyone.
Nance said there was a pool of 200 prospective jurors, but only room for 125 people in the courtroom.
Barnes had gone to spend part of the Christmas holidays in 2010 with her half-sister Deena and was staying at her apartment in northwest Baltimore. She was last seen Dec. 28, 2010, in the apartment.
Prosecutors allege Barnes, who had been dating Deena Barnes but was in the process of ending the relationship, killed Phylicia Barnes and disposed of her body in a 35-gallon tub. In court papers, prosecutors say at least one neighbor spotted Johnson struggling to get a tub out of the apartment on the day the teen disappeared.
Authorities from several law enforcement agencies searched for Barnes without success after she disappeared. Her body was found in April 2011, floating in the Susquehanna River. Johnson was arrested last April and charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say Barnes had been asphyxiated.
In court papers filed in the case, prosecutors say Johnson sent about 500 text messages to Phylicia Barnes in the months before she visited Baltimore.
Johnsons attorney says prosecutors have no evidence linking his client to Barnes death. Multiple media reports in Baltimore say defense attorneys will present a witness who claims to have seen Barnes alive, several days after she disappeared.
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