FILE–This undated file photo provided by Scotty Barr shows Ashley Johnson-Barr. An Alaska man linked to the 10-year-old girl dead has pleaded not guilty to lying to federal authorities investigate the case. (Scotty Barr via AP)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An Alaska man was charged Monday in the death of a 10-year-old girl whose remains were found more than a week after she was reported missing.
Prosecutors charged Peter Wilson of Kotzebue with the first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor and tampering with evidence Monday in connection with the death of Ashley Johnson-Barr. An autopsy showed signs of strangulation and sexual abuse, and DNA evidence also linked him to the crime, according to the officers of justice.
Wilson, 41, pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges of making false statements when FBI agents and others searched for Ashley in Kotzebue, a remote Inupiat town on Alaska’s northwest coast.
The girl disappeared Sept. 6. Her remains were found eight days later in a barren tundra is only accessible by a four-wheeler or on foot.
The state charges come after Ashley’s family had asked that any further legal steps will be deferred until after the girl’s funeral on Saturday, said John Skidmore, criminal division director of the state Department of Law.
Wilson took a mobile phone from Ashley and lied when he said that he had found on the ground, according to a criminal complaint filed last week by a federal grand jury. The complaint also says Wilson lied about knowing the girl and with the help of a four-wheeler on the day that she disappeared.
Ashley had her mobile phone with her when she was last seen playing with friends in a park. The phone was later that day in the pocket of a jacket belonging to Wilson, a woman named in an FBI statement only by the initials JJ told authorities. The woman said Wilson often stayed at her home.
Wilson told the authorities that he put the phone on the floor, approximately a half-mile of the park.
On the afternoon the girl has gone, Wilson is gone, too, with a four-wheeler for about two hours, according to the authorities. The FBI affidavit said the girl’s body was found on the tundra outside of Kotzebue, in an area covered with thick, black alder and willow brush.
After the girl disappeared, Kotzebue residents helped search for her, the keeping of vigils in the park where she was last seen. Similar prayer vigils were held across Alaska. The FBI sent 17 agents to help investigate.
Kotzebue is 26 miles (42 kilometers) north of the arctic circle, 550 miles (885 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage. It serves as a regional hub for northwest Alaska villages.
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