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Not guilty plea in slaying of NC teen in Md.

BALTIMORE (AP) – A man has pleaded not guilty to killing a North Carolina teenager who was missing for months before her body was found in a Maryland river.

Michael Johnson entered the plea Wednesday to first-degree murder charges in the 2010 asphyxiation death of his ex-girlfriend’s half-sister, Phylicia Barnes. The 16-year-old from Monroe, N.C., disappeared while visiting Baltimore for the Christmas holidays and her body was found in the Susquehanna River months later.

Prosecutors say Johnson killed Barnes in her half-sister’s apartment, then used a 35-gallon tub to move the body.

Attorney Russell Neverdon says prosecutors are targeting Johnson because he was the last to see Barnes alive, but he has seen no evidence linking Johnson to Barnes’ killing.

A trial date was set for Aug. 13.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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