Having last been seen on Thursday September 6th playing at a playground, a missing 10-year-old Kotzebue girl Ashley Johnson-Barr was found dead. The FBI has reported that a 41-year-old man, Peter Wilson of Kotzebue, 41, has been arrested for making false statements to a federal agent.
Authorities have not yet disclosed if Wilson is responsible for the death of Johnson-Barr and the scene of the girl’s death has not yet been described as a crime scene.
Ten Alaska FBI agents headed to Kotzebue last Monday to assist in a search for Johnson-Barr, who was last seen at the Rainbow Park playground in the Alaska town at about 5:30 p.m. Her cellphone was found in the street about a half-mile from the park. About 50 Volunteers and local area police were also searching for the girl. Ultimately, 17 FBI agents joined the search.
The search came to a devastating halt when Johnson-Barr was found deceased on Friday.
The Alaska State Troopers issued a public statement.
“After eight days, the search for Ashley has come to an unfortunate end. Late this afternoon, Ashley was located deceased by law enforcement and volunteer canvas teams in an area east of the City of Kotzebue. Alaska State Troopers, the FBI, Kotzebue Police Department, and the Northwest Arctic Borough extend our sincerest condolences to Ashley's family, friends, and community."
Johnson-Barr's father, Walter "Scotty" Barr wrote to the Anchorage Daily News in a text message earlier Friday that his daughter was a "very happy person" who "always had a smile no matter what." Ashley liked playing basketball and went to church every week, Barr wrote. She loved to use her allowance to buy things for her friends, he said. She loved her niece and was "willing to do anything for her."
In the days that have followed, social media has been flooded with messages of condolence to the family. The family also issued a public statement which Agnes Brown, the aunt of Johnson-Barr's mother read to Channel 2 KTUU.
"The outpouring of support from the state, from the country, and from the entire the world is hard to explain but we are so thankful for the walks, the candlelight vigils and the fundraisers.
Thank you for keeping our family, our town in your prayers, we feel them. We would not be able to live through this without your prayers and support. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
It so hard to know that we will never see our baby girl again on earth but we know she is in heaven and her soul is at peace. It will always be hard for us but we felt the love from everyone, and we can use this strength to carry on. For eight days we hope and pray for a better outcome but when she was found a small sense of peace came over us. This is not what we wanted, we wanted our baby girl to graduate high school to have a family, but she won't be able to do that.
On behalf of the family, I would like to say thank you, thank you for all your support, thank you for all your comfort, your love that you've shown to our family."
Family members of Johnson-Barr in Kotzebue said that no date has been decided for a funeral for Johnson-Barr. Friends took to Facebook to promote a GoFundMe page titled “Help Find Ashley Johnson-Barr” raising money for the cost of flying family to Kotzebue. So far, the page has raised $29,830 in 6 days, over $11,000 above their $18,000 goal.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling