In case of missing Kotzebue girl, troopers shift from search and rescue to investigation

Ashley Johnson-Barr (Photo courtesy of the Kotzebue Police Department)

It’s been a week since 10-year-old Ashely Johnson-Barr went missing in Kotzebue, and the response is shifting their focus from search and rescue to investigation.

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Alaska State Trooper spokesman Jonathon Taylor says some search efforts will continue along shoreline and water access points, but the exhaustive nature of the multi-agency operation, and length of time that’s passed, warrant transitioning the focus toward investigation. Taylor says that includes investigating ”whether criminal activity could’ve been involved in her disappearance.”

For now, Taylor says law enforcement, including the FBI, is not downsizing its presence in Kotzebue, and that investigators are following up on information received from the public.

”There could be criminal activity involved in Ashley’s disappearance. It could just be a tragic accident,” Taylor said. “Law enforcement is trying to pursue all of the leads.”

Taylor says a forensics analysts in Anchorage are going through Johnson-Barr’s cellphone, which was found on a local street near a Kotzebue park where she was last seen September 6th.

About 3,000 people live in the remote Northwest Alaska coastal city, and Taylor says investigators believe someone knows what happened.

”We’re urging anyone who may have details or knowledge of Ashley’s disappearance or current whereabouts to come forward with that information,” Taylor said.

Taylor says a local call and text tip line (907-995-3890) has been set up, and anyone outside Kotzebue with information can call State Troopers (907-451-5100).

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.