A cell phone and false statements to police could be important clues in the death of a 10-year-old girl whose body was found earlier this month in the Alaskan tundra.
Investigators have charged Peter Wilson, 41, with making false statements to the FBI after they say he lied about how he got 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr's cell phone. They also claim Wilson lied about knowing the girl—who police believe died as the result of a homicide— and told authorities he didn't use a four-wheeler the night the girl disappeared from a park although they believe he did, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
Wilson pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
Additional state charges related to the girl's death are expected to be filed Monday, the AP reports.
Ashley Johnson Barr was last seen at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 6 near an Alaska park, where she had been playing with friends. She was carrying her cell phone, but repeated calls from her parents went unanswered.
The cell phone was later discovered by a woman authorities have only identified as "JJ" later that night after she heard the phone ringing and found it in Wilson's jacket pocket, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
The woman contacted Johnson-Barr's parents and her father came to pick the phone up that night, later giving it to police. At the time, Wilson told Johnson-Barr's father he had found the phone on the ground at about 10:30 p.m. that night and picked it up.
Authorities now believe Wilson was lying and say "he had taken it directly from Ashley herself," according to the indictment.
Wilson also told authorities he had not gone out on a four-wheeler the night of the disappearance; however, JJ told law enforcement officers that she and her mother had asked him to go pick up JJ's child and another child, neither of whom were Johnson-Barr, at around 5:20 p.m. that night and said he left on a four-wheeler, according to the Anchorage Daily News. He reportedly returned two hours later but didn't have any children with him.
He also told investigators he had never seen Johnson-Barr before but law enforcement officers say he "met her on numerous occasions," the indictment said.
The young girl's body was found Sept. 14 a quarter mile off the road in an Alaskan tundra that investigators have said would have only been accessible by foot or on a four-wheeler and would have been a 45-minute walk from where she was last seen.
Johnson-Barr was laid to rest Saturday after a funeral service at a middle school gymnasium that drew hundreds of mourners, many of whom wore the girl's favorite color purple in her honor.
The obituary given to attendees described her as a girl who "absolutely loved playing basketball," according to local news station KTUU. Johnson-Barr also loved jumping into the ocean and picking berries with her mom.
On Sunday the community joined together once again for a fundraiser to help raise money for the girl's family.
"In our Native communities, when good things happen, when bad things happen – and everything else in between, when traumatic events happen – we always get together in unity,” Yaari Walker, a co-organizer of the event told KTVA. “We work together."
[Photo: Associated Press]
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