Crime & Courts

Family says 10-year-old Quinhagak girl was abducted, village in shock as homicide investigation continues

Alaska State Troopers are now calling the hunt for answers in the death of a 10-year-old girl a homicide investigation.

Volunteer searchers discovered the body of Ida “Girlie” Aguchak on Monday night in the Western Alaska village of Quinhagak, a day after the child first went missing. As of Tuesday afternoon, troopers had announced no arrests or developments in the case.

“Our community is devastated, trying to cope with the horrific reality that one of our own suffered at the hands of a monster,” Aguchak’s family wrote in a statement posted online and seeking donations to cover death expenses. In the statement, the family says Aguchak disappeared Sunday night, prompting an ever-expanding search that led to the discovery of her body Monday evening.

Troopers have said little about the case and ongoing investigation, but a spokesman on Tuesday confirmed the death appears to be a homicide. On Facebook, Quinhagak residents began pleading for anyone with information about the death to come forward, often using the hashtag #justiceforgirlie.

“There is nothing we can do to change the circumstances of this event, but we are reaching out to you to ask for prayers for comfort and to find who did this to Girlie,” the family wrote in a fundraising post shared by Elizabeth Church, a cousin of Aguchak’s mother. Church said the family approved the wording of the post, which says the parents believe Aguchak was abducted and her body hidden.

Quinhagak is served by tribal police officers and the police chief declined to discuss details of the case, citing the ongoing investigation. An FBI spokesman said the agency is providing technical assistance to troopers but has not sent agents to Quinhagak.

Troopers did not respond to questions about the investigation Tuesday, including whether additional troopers have been sent to the village. Quinhagak is a community of about 700 people, 71 miles southwest of Bethel.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. sent an employee trained in crisis response and grief counseling to the village to talk with family members, search volunteers and anyone else in need of assistance, according to the nonprofit. Anyone in Quinhagak who would prefer to seek grief counseling services by phone can call a YKHC clinician locally at 907-543-6499.

Kyle Hopkins

Kyle Hopkins is special projects editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He was the lead reporter on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lawless" project and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the ADN and ProPublica's Local Reporting Network. He joined the ADN in 2004 and was also an editor and investigative reporter at KTUU-TV. Email