An Alaska man admitted to killing and sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in the state’s remote northern tundra, three years after he denied he was involved.
Peter Vance Wilson pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder and sexual abuse of a minor in the death of Ashley Johnson Barr.
The 2018 attack happened in the remote Inupiat town of Kotzebue, north of the Arctic Circle, and 200 miles from Russia across the Bering Sea.
State police said Wilson had confessed to the crime in 2018 after being presented with evidence, but later recanted his statement.
“It’s a good sigh of relief, knowing that he decided to finally admit what he did, and he finally understands what he did was wrong,” Ashley’s father, Scotty Barr said. “But there shouldn’t be any excuses for taking another person’s life, especially a younger child.”
Ashley vanished from the small community on Sept. 6, 2018, and her body was found a week later in rugged tundra that could only be reached by a four-wheeler or by hiking.
Her phone was found in Wilson’s jacket by a relative after her parents called it repeatedly. At the time, Wilson claimed he found it on the ground and did not use a four-wheeler the day the girl disappeared.
In fact, Wilson — who is in his mid-40s — used the all-terrain vehicle for hours on the day of Ashley’s murder, law enforcement officials said.
Kotzebue residents and FBI agents scoured the area for the girl, before finding her remains in the tundra concealed by brush.
The incident galvanized the whole state, and vigils were held across Alaska for the young victim.
If Wilson’s plea deal is accepted by the court, he will face 99 years in prison.
“It plays with your emotions, mentally, physically and emotionally and spiritually,” the victim’s father said, noting that Ashley has six siblings.
“We’re almost at the end, and we’re looking forward to it, to become a family again, to learn to live without one of your children that will never, ever come back.”
With AP wires