‘Everyone was praying:’ Vigil remembers Ashley Johnson-Barr
A Chugiak vigil Saturday night honored the memory of a 10-year-old Kotzebue girl found dead near the Northwest Alaska community, as investigators continue to make progress in the case.
Ashley Johnson-Barr had last been seen at a local playground Sept. 6, with authorities saying her cellphone was found nearby before a massive search effort's tragic outcome Friday.
Alaska State Troopers spokesman Jonathon Taylor said the case remained under investigation over the weekend.
“Ashley’s body was located in an area about a mile east of the city of Kotzebue on the tundra,” Taylor wrote in an email. “Authorities worked late Friday and into Saturday to secure and process the scene, and transport her to Anchorage so the [state medical examiner’s office] can begin an autopsy.”
On Saturday, Johnson-Barr’s cousins and friends gathered at Loretta French Park in Chugiak for a candlelight vigil, which had been planned before they learned of her death. They decided to go ahead, however, to keep support for her memory strong.
People gathered at the park Saturday were singing songs and trying to hold back tears. Dozens of balloons were released into the evening sky as those present mourned the girl her father, Scotty Barr, said last week was a “very energetic, very happy” fifth grader and basketball player.
Vigil organizer Tisha Victory, an administrator of the Facebook crime-watchdog group Anchorage Scanner Joe, said the event was meant to share Alaskans’ sympathy with Johnson-Barr’s loved ones.
"What happened to Ashley literally brought communities together all over the state and heck, there were people all over the United States – it made national news,” Victory said. “So for her family to know, you know, that they weren't alone in this and that everyone was praying for them and that they wanted to bring Ashley home safe – so for us to continue it to honor her, that's the best way we can do that, to show her that we are a community and that no matter who (you) are you're still family."
Maija Katak Lukin posted a Facebook video Friday of her daughter from Mount Edgecumbe singing a song for Johnson-Barr.
"She said she did the only thing she could do, write a song," Lukin wrote.
Peter Wilson, 41, faces a federal charge of providing false statements to a federal agent in connection with the investigation. Court documents on Wilson were still pending Sunday.
State court records show that Wilson pleaded guilty in Kotzebue court to felony burglary charges in 1995 and 1996. Since then, he has been convicted of misdemeanors including criminal trespass, DUI and assault in three cases spanning from 2004 through 2010.
Dave Goldman and Gina Romero contributed information to this story.
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