Kotzebue man faces murder charges in 10-year-old girl's disappearance
A Kotzebue man who was charged with lying to federal agents surrounding the disappearance and death of 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr now faces several state charges including murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse of a minor.
The Office of Special Prosecutions on Monday filed new state charges against 41-year-old Peter V. Wilson. Charges include three counts of murder in the first degree, kidnapping, four counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and tampering with evidence. Wilson faces up to 99 years in prison.
Ashley went missing on Sept. 6. Searchers found her body on Sept. 14. An autopsy revealed "signs of trauma that include strangulation and sexual abuse," according to a statement released by the Department of Law.
Even as Wilson remains in federal custody, state court traditionally has jurisdiction for criminal charges such as those filed on Monday.
Because federal crimes were involved in the investigation, the Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions and the U.S. Attorney’s Office worked closely to determine appropriate charges, said Criminal Division Director John Skidmore in the news release.
“A close working relationship with our federal partners allowed swift action in this matter,” Skidmore said in the prepared statement. “We will continue discussions moving forward to ensure both offices can pursue charges to hold the offender accountable and make Alaska a safer place.”
Last week, Wilson pleaded not guilty after being indicted after federal investigators allege four false statements.
* Told investigators he never used a four-wheeler on Sept. 6, the day Ashley disappeared. Agents contend he used one approximately 5:20 p.m. that day. In Monday's criminal complaint, investigators reported finding, "what appeared to be blood drops on the left rear panel of the ATV."
* Stated he had never seen Ashley but investigators say he met her several times. In the state's criminal complaint, Ashley's father Scotty Barr spoke to Wilson on Sept. 7 and that Wilson "attempted to hide his face with his arm."
* Said he found Ashley's cell phone near the NANA Regional Corp. building, but they say he took it directly from Ashley. A witness told investigators that she knew Wilson did not own a cell phone and was surprised when it rang, according to Monday's criminal complaint.
* Told investigators that Ashley's phone never lit up and he did not see her name on the phone, but they say Wilson knew Ashley owned the phone and it had been lighting up ringing.
On Sept. 15, the state Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy and found "distinct ligature marks" around her neck, facial injuries and "large about of mud/debris" on her body.
The Alaska State Crime Lab also performed DNA testing. Samples collected from Ashley's body "indicated the presence of any foreign DNA linked to any person other than Wilson."
Ralston said the community wants to honor Ashley's life by renaming the park where she was last seen.
"At the city council meeting, there was talk about renaming Rainbow Park, to Ashley's Park or I guess it might be Purple Park," Ralston said.
Wilson is scheduled to be arraigned in Kotzebue, though it's uncertain whether he will travel to Kotzebue or be permitted to call into his arraignment.
Steve Quinn and Manny Creech contributed to this story.
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