Crime & Courts

‘It’s in God’s hands now,’ father says as bail set at $3 million in Kotzebue child murder case

A Kotzebue judge set bail at $3 million Tuesday for a man accused of kidnapping, raping and strangling a 10-year-old girl.

In granting prosecutors' full bail request, Magistrate Judge Aaron Michels declared Peter Vance Wilson, 41, a substantial potential risk to the community. Wilson is accused of killing Ashley Johnson-Barr on Sept. 6 in Kotzebue.

The girl's father, Scotty Barr, spoke briefly at Wilson's initial court appearance on the state charges.

"I don't know where to begin," he said, his voice breaking.

"It's in God's hands now, as well as you, the judge," Barr said. "And as well as the district attorney. I trust that all you guys are going to make the best decision for our family. Our community."

In the meantime, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety said he could not comment on whether DNA obtained from Wilson has been matched to any unsolved cases in federal databases.

"Investigators are continuing to analyze all the evidence that has been obtained through the investigation but beyond that … I should leave it at that," said public safety spokesman Jonathon Taylor.

Wilson faces nine felony counts, including murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor and an evidence tampering charge related to allegations he pocketed the girl's cellphone after killing her.

Prosecutors asked the judge to deny Wilson the opportunity for supervised release as he awaits trial, citing "extremely, extremely dangerous behavior." Wilson has essentially been homeless in Kotzebue in recent months, the prosecuting attorney said, drifting among three homes and with no known employment.

"There's DNA evidence. The fact that he had the cellphone with him," said Assistant District Attorney Rachel Ahrens. "It is a very strong case for the state to prove at this time."

Magistrate Judge Michels noted that he had received a pretrial report for Wilson and that Wilson was potentially eligible to be released on his own recognizance under certain conditions.

Michels said that clearly should not be allowed in this case.

"This is a case that has affected the community like, I think, nothing in recent memory," Michels said.

The judge appointed Wilson a public defender. His next court appearance on the state charges — Wilson also faces a federal charge of lying to the FBI — is scheduled for Oct. 4.