Alaska man charged with murder, sex crimes in death of 10-year-old girl

Peter Wilson, accused of lying to an FBI agent during the search for a missing 10-year-old...
Peter Wilson, accused of lying to an FBI agent during the search for a missing 10-year-old girl, appears in federal court. (From Melanie Lombard) (KTUU)
Published: Sep. 24, 2018 at 11:46 AM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Peter Wilson, 41, is accused of murdering 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr of Kotzebue.

Her "autopsy revealed signs of trauma including strangulation and sexual abuse," according to a press release from the Alaska Department of Law Monday afternoon.

Ashley first disappeared from a community playground late in the afternoon on Sept. 6. Her body was discovered eight days later outside of Kotzebue's city center in an off-road section of tundra thick with alder and willow bushes.

The medical examiner noted what appeared to be defensive wounds on Ashley's hands.

Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein with Alaska's Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals filed charges against Wilson Monday afternoon.

Wilson, who is a relative of Johnson-Barr's family, is accused of first degree murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor and tampering with evidence. He faces up to a life sentence if found guilty of the most serious charges.

Eight of the nine charges against Wilson — three counts of murder in the first degree, a single count of kidnapping, and four counts of sexual abuse against a minor in the first degree — are unclassified felonies.

Investigators used scent-detecting dogs, DNA, cell phone data and surveillance footage to piece together the events leading up to Ashley's disappearance and death.

It appears Ashley, a fifth grader, was taken and killed shortly after leaving the Rainbow Park playground for home. She was wearing a pink sweatshirt. By the time of her 8:30 p.m. curfew, Ashley was dead, according to a timeline established by investigators and revealed in court documents.

Wilson told investigators he'd started drinking earlier in the afternoon the day Ashley went missing.

From there, here's what the investigative timeline shows:

- 5:00 - 6:00 pm: Ashley goes missing

- 5:20 pm: Wilson leaves on an ATV

- 6:06 pm: video footage shows "an ATV with what appears to be one male and one juvenile female (who appears to be wearing a pink sweatshirt) driving past the camera..." and "...can be seen heading down the road towards the location where A.J.B.'s body was found."

- 6:00 - 7:00 pm: Ashley's cell phone moves approximately two miles southeast of Kotzebue.

- 7:12 - 8:00 pm: No data records for Ashley's cell phone, consistent with the phone being in an area without cell service.

- 8:01 pm: Ashley's phone moves from the area southeast of Kotzebue back into the city.

- 10:40 pm: Ashley's phone is in an area near a house Wilson was staying at.

- 11:00 pm: Wilson goes to a friends house where he "seemed intoxicated," "unusually quiet," and then "passed out."

- 12:00 am: Wilson's friend hears a phone ringing, discovers Ashley's phone in Wilson's jacket pocket and calls Ashley's parents.

Wilson has been in custody since his arrest Sept. 14, the same day Ashley's body was recovered, for making false statements to a federal agent. Investigators say he lied to a member of the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force as search teams scoured Kotzebue for signs of the missing girl.

When questioned, Wilson told investigators that he didn't know Ashley, that he hadn't been on an ATV ride that night, and that he'd found the phone. Investigators say none of that is true.

Prosecutors say DNA found on Ashley matches a DNA profile obtained from Wilson.

Wilson is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday.