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Press Release

Kotzebue Man Sentenced to Serve Ninety-Nine Years in Custody for the 2018 Murder and Sexual Abuse of a Minor of Ashley Johnson-Barr

September 21, 2021

(Kotzebue, AK) – Today, Judge Nelson Traverso sentenced Peter Wilson to a total sentence of 198 years, with 99 years suspended, for the murder and sexual abuse of Ashley Johnson-Barr on September 6, 2108 in Kotzebue, Alaska.  The court sentenced Mr. Wilson to 99 years with 49 suspended, or 50 years to serve, for the crime of Murder in the First Degree and 99 years with 50 years suspended, or 49 years to serve, for the crime of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the First Degree.  Under the sentence imposed, time will run consecutively, so Mr. Wilson will serve 99 years in custody.

The sentence imposed was pursuant to a plea agreement entered into by the State and Mr. Wilson.  As part of the plea agreement, Wilson admitted to all conduct alleged in the initial charging document and at the later grand jury.  In imposing the sentence, the court found that four aggravators applied: that the defendant exhibited deliberate cruelty towards the victim, that he targeted a vulnerable victim, that it was among the most serious conduct within the class of offense and that the defendant had engaged in similar prior conduct involving one or more other victims. 

In sentencing remarks, the court found that Mr. Wilson’s actions were purposeful, deliberative and exploited Ashley’s vulnerability.  The court also emphasized the defendant’s manipulative actions, both during the investigation and afterwards.  The court found that a sentence of 99 years of incarceration would protect the community.  At sentencing, the State emphasized the predatory nature of the defendant’s conduct and the harm that the crime had caused to both Ashley’s family and the community as a whole.

On September 7, 2018, at approximately 12:30 AM, Johnson-Barr’s father reported that Ashley had not returned home and was missing.  Ashley’s phone was found by a relative of Wilson’s in Wilson’s coat pocket after her parents repeatedly called it.  The case was investigated by the Alaska State Troopers with substantial assistance from the Kotzebue Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Ashley’s body was discovered on September 14 outside of Kotzebue after the FBI triangulated the location of her cell phone signal at the time of the murder.  The Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory provided critical assistance by conducting immediate testing of multiple items for DNA.  DNA, video and other evidence linked Wilson to the murder.  Wilson eventually confessed to the murder after the case investigator, AST Lieutenant Scott Bartlett, confronted him with the evidence linking him to the crime.

Attorney General Treg Taylor said that, “Today’s sentencing shows that law enforcement in this state will bring to justice those who commit violent crime and sexual abuse in rural Alaska by working collaboratively and with the community.  Hopefully this result brings some sense of closure to Ashley Johnson-Barr’s family and the people of Kotzebue.”  AG Taylor thanked Chief AAG Gruenstein, Lieutenant Scott Bartlett, the Alaska State Troopers, the State Crime Lab, the Kotzebue Police Department, and the FBI for their hard work in this case. 
CONTACT: Chief Assistant Attorney Jenna Gruenstein at (907) 269-6250 or at jenna.gruenstein@alaska.gov

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Department Media Contact: Assistant Attorney General Grace Lee at (907) 465-3600 or grace.lee@alaska.gov.