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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Alaska

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kotzebue Man Charged in Connection with the Investigation into Ashley Johnson-Barr’s Death

Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that Peter Wilson, 41, of Kotzebue, Alaska, has been charged with making false statements to a federal agent, in connection with the investigation into the disappearance and death of 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr.  Wilson was arrested on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, and is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 18, 2018, at 1:30 p.m.   

According to the complaint affidavit, during the course of the investigation, “JJ” was interviewed and advised law enforcement that, on the night of Sept. 6, 2018, she found Johnson-Barr’s cell phone in the pocket of a jacket belonging to Wilson, who occasionally stays with JJ.  She found the cell phone after hearing it repeatedly ring from Wilson’s jacket.  When she picked the phone up, she saw Johnson-Barr’s name displayed on the screen.  JJ called Johnson-Barr’s mother, who advised that Johnson-Barr was missing.  Johnson-Barr’s father retrieved the phone from JJ’s residence and turned it over to the Kotzebue Police Department.  When asked by Johnson-Barr’s father and JJ where he found the phone, Wilson stated he found it near the NANA building, which is at the intersection of 2nd and 3rd Avenue in Kotzebue. 

JJ also advised law enforcement that on Sept. 6, 2018, she and Wilson were present at JJ’s mother’s (“SM”) house throughout the day.  This location is approximately one mile from Rainbow Park, which is where Johnson-Barr was last seen.  JJ and SM both advised law enforcement that at approximately 5:20 pm on that same day, SM asked Wilson to pick up JJ’s child and one other child (not Johnson-Barr).  Wilson left the house on a 4-wheeler at approximately 5:20 pm.  JJ advised that Wilson was gone until approximately 7:20 pm, and did not have any children with him when he returned.  Johnson-Barr’s parents were interviewed by law enforcement, who reported that Johnson-Barr and Wilson knew each other and that he had been to their house on numerous occasions.

The complaint alleges that, when Wilson was interviewed by the FBI, Wilson denied using a 4-wheeler at any time on Sept. 6, 2018, denied that he knew Johnson-Barr, and denied seeing Johnson-Barr’s name on her cell phone while he had it in his possession.  Also during the interview, Wilson repeatedly stated that he had found Johnson-Barr’s cell phone near the NANA building; however, investigators determined that the cell phone had travelled to areas well south and east of the location where she was last seen and where Wilson said he found the phone.  On Sept. 14, 2018, investigators initiated a search of the area where Johnson-Barr’s cell phone had travelled.  At approximately 4:15 pm, Johnson-Barr’s body was discovered one quarter mile off the road on the tundra.    

The Alaska State Troopers (AST), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Kotzebue Police Department conducted the investigation leading to the charges in this case.  This case is being prosecuted by Criminal Chief Frank Russo.  Russo stated, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been working with the FBI, the State Troopers, the Kotzebue Police Department, and the Department of Law on the investigation of Ashley Johnson-Barr’s death.  We will continue to work with our state and federal partners on the investigation and to assess where to file further charges, as well as what charges to be filed.”

A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Violent Crime
Updated September 17, 2018