Kotzebue community mourns slain 10-year-old
Hundreds of people packed the Kotzebue High School gym Saturday to say goodbye to Ashley Johnson-Barr.
The 10-year-old girl was found dead last week in what investigators are calling a homicide.
The grief was palpable as Scotty Barr mourned his daughter.
“I want her,” he cried out during the service as his family members surrounded him.
The crowd softly sang “Somebody’s Praying for You,” as the family wept.
“As we all face this horrific tragedy we gather today. We gather today to love,” said Pastor Robert Sheldon.
Ashley’s favorite color, purple, was on full display. Many at her funeral service put their lives on hold and spend days searching for the girl after she went missing on Sept. 6.
The news of her death and the circumstances surrounding it was a heartbreaking shock to the Kotzebue community and the entire state of Alaska.
Dr. Beau Abernathy from the Kotzebue Assembly of God Church brought a moment of joy when he talked about Ashley’s love of Sunday school.
“One Sunday afternoon when things had quite down and I hear a knock on the door,” Abernathy said, rapping his hands on the podium. “I look down and it’s Ashley and her crew. And she must have been the spokesperson because she said, ‘You forgot to give us snacks today after children’s church,’” he said as the crowd laughed.
Ashley will be remembered for her infectious smile and zest for life.
“This girl has left a true legacy of one that love, one that is kind, one that is gentle and one that has offered her heart to the Lord,” Sheldon said.
Her shiny purple casket was driven through the streets in a box truck; Kotzebue doesn’t have a funeral home or hearse.
Police and fire vehicle gave her a solemn escort with flashing lights as people lined the pavement.
Purple balloons tied to the gate around the cemetery floated in the brisk breeze while friends gathered around her burial site.
Then, a final walk with her father as he and several other men lowered her into her grave.
“What I really hope for people is they have a sense of peace and closure,” said Maija Lukin, who organized the funeral. “Having a funeral for a little girl who was taken too fast is tough.”
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