Missing Kotzebue girl found dead, suspect arrested
Ashley Johnson-Barr, the ten-year-old girl who disappeared from Kotzebue on Thursday, September 6, was found dead on Friday, September 14.
In a statement on Friday, September 14, the Alaska State Troopers announced the tragic conclusion to the search for Johnson-Barr. “After eight days, the search for Ashley has come to an unfortunate end. Late this afternoon, Ashley was located deceased by law enforcement and volunteer canvas teams in an area east of the City of Kotzebue. Alaska State Troopers, the FBI, Kotzebue Police Department, and the Northwest Arctic Borough extend our sincerest condolences to Ashley’s family, friends, and community,” read the statement.
That day, 41-year-old Peter Wilson was arrested on Friday, in connection with Johnson-Barr’s disappearance under a criminal complaint of making false statements to a federal agent. Wilson is scheduled to appear in court on September 18.
The arrest warrant details Wilson’s actions, which began on the night of Johnson-Barr’s disappearance. According to the affidavit, a woman he was staying with found Ashley Johnson-Barr’s cellphone that night in Wilson’s jacket pocket. The phone was ringing, and Johnson-Barr’s full name was displayed clearly on the cellphone screen. The woman called the girl’s parents to return the phone, and discovered she was missing.
Witnesses also advised law enforcement that Wilson took a two-hour trip on a four-wheeler on September 6, between 5:20 and 7:20 p.m.
After the cellphone was turned over to the Kotzebue Police Department by the girl’s parents, Wilson went to the police the following day and stated he found the cellphone near the NANA building, since he heard police were looking for a girl who he couldn’t remember the name of. According to Johnson-Barr’s parents, Wilson is a relative and had been to their residence many times.
On September 13, the web of lies began as an FBI officer interviewed Wilson. During the interview, Wilson repeatedly stated he found the cellphone near the NANA building, denied using a 4-wheeler on September 6, denied seeing the name on the cellphone, and denied knowing Johnson-Barr.
According to the FBI, Johnson-Barr’s cellphone travelled east from the playground were she was last seen, to where it appears she was murdered. GCI assisted investigators to geo-locate the victim’s cellphone. It had been south and east of the location where she was last seen.
On September 14, a search was conducted using the geo-location points, about two miles east of downtown Kotzebue. The victim’s body was found at approximately 4:15 p.m, one quarter-mile off the road on the tundra, accessible only by four-wheeler or by foot, in an area of thick willows and in a depression in the ground.
The exact cause of death is still under investigation. According to the FBI affidavit, “it appears to be a homicide based upon the training and experience of the investigators. Crime technicians processed the scene and collected evidence, which is currently being analyzed by the state crime laboratory. Warrants have been obtained to collect DNA and trace evidence samples from the defendant for comparison.”
On Thursday, walks for Ashley have been held in not only in Kotzebue but also in Nome, Shishmaref, Gambell, Teller, Golovin, Savoonga, Wales, White Mountain, Brevig Mission, Unalakleet, as far north as Utqiagvik, and as far south as Anchorage, Wasilla, Palmer, Washington and Oregon and even Houston, TX.