Image: Phylicia Barnes
Baltimore Police Department  /  AP
Phylicia Barnes is shown in a family photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 4/21/2011 9:48:40 PM ET 2011-04-22T01:48:40

One of two bodies pulled from Maryland's Susquehanna River was positively identified Thursday as a North Carolina teenager missing for nearly four months, Baltimore police said.

Maryland medical examiners compared dental records of Phylicia Barnes to confirm the identity, officials said. The body found Wednesday morning had a tattoo on the lower right leg, which, police said, was their first indication the body might be Barnes.

Officials have not determined a cause of death, but at a late Thursday news conference said there were "no overt indications of wounds" to Barnes.

The Monroe, N.C., teen, whose 17th birthday was Jan. 12, vanished Dec. 28 while visiting her half-sister in Baltimore.

A man's body was found hours after Barnes' body was discovered. Police said they had not identified the black male, who was 6-foot-4 and weighed 240 pounds.

It was not clear if there was any connection between the two bodies, officials said. They were found about three to four miles apart on opposite sides of the Conowingo Dam in northeast Maryland, about 50 miles from Baltimore.

"All of us since that fateful day in December have been praying and hopeful for a different outcome," Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld said at the Thursday night news conference.

He said state and local police will continue working together to find out what happened to the teen and "hold those responsible to account."

Officials said they could not rule out the possibility that Barnes had been in the river since she was reported missing as the cold Susquehanna water preserved her body.

Barnes' mother told NBC station WBAL of Baltimore that she's been in mourning since her daughter disappeared and is grateful for all of the efforts made to find her.

Perplexing case
Barnes' family and friends had raised more than $35,000 in reward money to help solve the case. Her mother and stepfather declined to comment on the identification of the body.

Soon after the teen vanished, Baltimore police alerted local media saying her disappearance was unusual because she had no history of disputes with her family or trouble with the law. Police called it one of the strangest and most vexing missing persons cases they had investigated, and, despite getting help from the FBI, they had few leads.

Barnes, a senior at Union Academy in Monroe, N.C., was last seen at her half-sister's northwest Baltimore apartment while visiting relatives for the Christmas holiday. Barnes reportedly left the Baltimore apartment, saying she was going to get something to eat. She had not been seen or heard from since.

Police had said there were several persons of interest in the case, including the former boyfriend of Barnes' half-sister, Deena. The man was the last person to report seeing the teen alive the day she disappeared.

The man, whom police have interviewed repeatedly, hired an attorney.

"Only guilty people hire an attorney," Barnes' mother, Janice Sallis, said one month after her daughter disappeared.

No one has been charged in the case.

Barnes was a track star and honors student who lived with her mother. She had planned to graduate early from high school and attend Towson University, family said.

'Baltimore's Natalee Holloway'
Multiple searches and national appeals for information were made after Barnes disappeared.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi had described the disappearance as "Baltimore's Natalee Holloway case." The Barnes case did not get as much attention as the disappearance of the Alabama teen in Aruba, but Barnes' mother said in January that she did not feel slighted.

"My daughter is not the only child that's missing. Other children need their time, too," Janice Sallis said. "I appreciate all that has been done for her and us thus far, and it's quality, not quantity, that's important to me."

Police worked to keep the search for Barnes in public, posting a smiling photo of Barnes from her Facebook page on electronic billboards along highways in the Baltimore region. The effort spurred scores of tips, but none panned out.

More than 100 police officers combed a northwest Baltimore park in the weeks after she vanished, but found no clues to her whereabouts. Earlier this month, hundreds of law enforcement officers and volunteers searched a state park south of Baltimore and leafleted the area of the city where she was last seen. That daylong effort again failed to turn up any clues and police said they were "back at square one."

This article contains reporting by msnbc.com staff, NBC station WBAL of Baltimore and The Associated Press.

Video: Officials reveal grim findings in Barnes case

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