Authorities in Alaska are searching for a fifth-grader last seen at a local park more than a week ago — and the case is now considered a criminal investigation, PEOPLE confirms.
Alaska State Troopers said in a statement that Ashley Johnson-Barr, 10, was last seen at about 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 6 at Rainbow Park playground in Kotzebue in northwest Alaska.
Her family reported her missing when she failed to return home, the post says. She was last seen wearing a pink sweater and jeans.
Ashley’s cell phone was found in the street about a half-mile from the park but in the opposite direction from her home, according to a statement from Kotzebue Police Chief Thomas Milliette, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
According to the outlet, Troopers’ Lt. Dave Hanson issued a statement Thursday saying, “Given the length of time that Ashley has been missing and the exhaustive efforts that have yet to result in her being found and reunited with family, as of this morning, we are shifting our focus towards the ongoing law enforcement investigation, including whether criminal activity may have been involved in her disappearance.”
Authorities have searched the park and surrounding areas. Earlier this week, authorities expanded their search to the coastline of the Kotzebue Sound, local station KTVA reports.
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Ashley is close to her family, responsible and not someone who would run away or hide, her father, Walter “Scotty” Barr, told local station KTUU.
When Barr realized that Ashley had gone missing, “Our hearts were really racing,” he told KTVA. “Our minds were very clear. Our main focus was to look at the main places that she does go.”
With her 8:30 p.m. curfew, Barr said he grew worried when she failed to come home before nightfall, KTUU reports.
He said he called her cell phone about “20 times” before someone answered saying it had been found near the NANA Regional Corp. building, in the opposite direction from the park to their home.
Anyone with details or knowledge of Ashley’s disappearance or whereabouts should call a local call and text tip line at 907-995-3890 or the Alaska State Troopers at 907-451-5100.
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