‘At least she’s home’: Family remembers Ashley Johnson-Barr one year later

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KOTZEBUE, Alaska (KTUU) - A year after 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr was found murdered outside Kotzebue, father Scotty Barr remembers when a local police officer told him she had been found.

“I asked if she is alive, he just shook his head and I just cried and screamed as loud as I can,” said Barr. “‘Cause we were hoping that she’d still be alive, we wanted her to be alive.”

This past Saturday marked one year to the day that a search and rescue crew found Johnson-Barr’s body buried under thick brush on a hillside above the tundra.

Barr said when a 21-year-old on his first search and rescue mission discovered his daughter, the young man was devastated.

“The image he saw, he couldn’t believe it,” said Barr.

Later that day, the young searcher visited the Johnson-Barr household in tears. Barr gave him money from the family to say thanks and to encourage him to keep volunteering with search and rescue teams to give relief to other families.

Barr’s sister Mona Norton says her niece’s disappearance and murder is still fresh in her mind. She joined dozens of people from Kotzebue who volunteered hundreds of hours to search for the young girl.

Sept. 14 also marks the one-year anniversary that Johnson-Barr’s alleged killer was arrested. Peter Wilson was later charged with murder and sexual assault.

He remains in custody awaiting trial. Barr says officials have said to him that it could start soon but it will likely take months or years to conclude.

In the meantime, the family still receives an outpouring of support from the community of Kotzebue and across the state.

Barr recollects that friends and family sat with him a year ago, late into the night trying to console him. “They told us, at least she’s home, she’s found, she’s in a better place,” he said.

This is the first of a three-part series airing on the Newshour at 6:00 p.m. On Tuesday, Channel 2 will report how the family is coping one year later. On Wednesday, Johnson-Barr’s legacy and how Kotzebue has changed.

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