On the 6th of September 2018, ten year old Ashley Johnson Barr went to the Rainbow Park in the Iñupiat town of Kotzebue in Alaska, United States to play with friends.
When Ashley didn't return home, she was reported missing. She was last seen at the park at around 5.30pm. A huge search took place. It was a town of 3200 people, a very close community, and her disappearance caused fear among all the local people. Ashley was from a loving family and they did not believe she would have gone anywhere by herself without telling anyone. She loved basketball and church and attended Bible study groups and church services up to five times a week. Where was she?
Ashley Johnson Barr
Ashley had her cell phone with her at the park and her parents called it repeatedly. Eventually, someone answered but it wasn't Ashley. The person who answered told Ashley's parents that they found her phone in the pocket of a jacket belonging to one of their relations. That man was forty one year old Peter Vance Wilson. Ashley's parents told Peter's relative that their daughter was missing so her phone was handed in to the police.
Peter was from Kiana but had lived in Kotzebue for years. Police discovered that he had just been on a "weekslong drinking bender" and was unaccounted for the afternoon Ashley went missing for a two hour period. He also had access to a four-wheeler that afternoon.
When police spoke to Peter, he told them that he found Ashley's phone near a building. He told police that he didn't know Ashley and didn't know where she was.
Peter Vance Wilson
Eight days after Ashley went missing, on the 14th of September, her body was found in a remote and rugged area of the tundra outside Kotzebue. It was around two miles from where she was last seen. The location where Ashley's body was found was only accessible by a four-wheeler or on foot.
Ashley had been sexually assaulted and the Medical Examiner determined the cause of death as asphyxia due to obstruction of her airway and constriction of her neck.
Peter was arrested and charged with kidnapping, sexually abusing and killing Ashley. Police said that they linked him to the crime through DNA evidence, witness interviews and surveillance footage.
When police questioned Peter, he denied any involvement in Ashley's death but when presented with the evidence that the police had against him, he confessed. He pleaded guilty to first degree murder and first degree sexual abuse of a minor. Peter admitted to all conduct alleged in the charges and four statutory aggravating factors. Those four factors will be considered at his sentencing hearing and include 1) targeting a vulnerable victim, 2) deliberate cruelty towards the victim, 3) most serious conduct within the class of offense and 4) similar prior conduct involving one or more other victims.
After his arrest, members of Peter's own family claimed that he had a history of raping young girls. They alleged that he raped and sexually abused some of his family members.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place on the 21st of September 2021. If the Court accepts the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to a total sentence of 198 years with 99 years suspended.
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