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Press Release

Kotzebue Man Pleads Guilty to Murder in the First Degree and Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the First Degree for 2018 Murder of Ashley Johnson Barr

June 21, 2021

(Kotzebue, Alaska) – On Monday, June 21, 2021, Peter Vance Wilson pleaded guilty to first degree murder and first degree sexual abuse of a minor stemming from the September 6, 2018 murder of Ashley Johnson Barr in Kotzebue, Alaska. The State and Mr. Wilson entered into a plea agreement prior to Mr. Wilson's change of plea. If the court accepts the plea agreement, Wilson will be sentenced to a total sentence of 198 years with 99 years suspended pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement. Sentencing is set for September 21, 2021 and the court ordered a pre-sentence report to be written and provided to the court prior to sentencing. After the court receives the pre-sentence report, the judge will determine whether to accept the plea agreement and sentence Mr. Wilson accordingly.

As part of the plea, Wilson admitted to all conduct alleged in the initial charging document and at the later grand jury. Wilson also agreed that four statutory aggravating factors should be considered in his sentencing: deliberate cruelty towards the victim, targeting a vulnerable victim, most serious conduct within the class of offense and similar prior conduct involving one or more other victims.

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 Sgt. Scott Bartlett, confronted him with the evidence linking him to the crime.

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.