Missing: The Disappearance of Asha Degree (2000)

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This case has been open for 21 years with no new leads or no new evidence suggesting what happened to the next victim, this is the disappearance of Asha Degree.

Asha Degree was born on August 5, 1990, and was from Shelby, North Carolina, in the early morning hours of February 14, 2000 for reasons still nobody knows to this day, Asha packed her bookbag, and left her family home and began walking down Highway 18 despite being in the heavy rain and wind.

There was several witnesses that saw her walking down the highway but why did nobody call it in? If I was seeing a little girl especially a 9 year old I would definitely call it in to the police. But I guess a motorist did turn around when they got about a mile down the road and when the came back she took of running down into a wooded area of off the highway.

But by morning, her parents discovered she was not in the house, and that was the last time anybody would see Asha Degree.

A search began that day that led to the location of where some of her personal effects were found where she was last seen.

It was stated in an interview that was done with members of the family that were in the household when Asha disappeared that the family had gotten home from church and returned home like a normal Sunday, by 8 pm both children to went to bed, but Asha and her brother O’Bryant, share a room. There was an accident in the neighborhood that had knocked the power out in the house, but the power returned by 12:30 which then, their father, Harold, checked on both children and saw they were both asleep in there beds, he then checked again before he went to bed at 2:30 AM.

Shortly afterwards, O’Bryant, recalls hearing Asha’s bed squeak. He did not awake himself fully as he assumed she was changing positions in her sleep, but apparently around this time, was when Asha got out of bed, taking the bookbag that she had packed and left the house.

It was between 3:45 and 4:15 when there was several witnesses that saw her walking down the highway but why did nobody call it in? If I was seeing a little girl especially a 9 year old I would definitely call it in to the police. But I guess a motorist did turn around when they got about a mile down the road and when the came back she took of running down into a wooded area of off the highway. According to research, some motorist did call to report this to police but it wasn’t until after seeing a TV report hours later about her disappearance.

Asha’s mother, Iquilla, awoke at 5:45 to start getting the children ready for school. It was an important day as it was Valentine’s day, but it was also the Degrees’ wedding anniversary, and this involved drawing a bath for them because they were not able to take one due to the power outage the night before. When she opened the children’s room to wake them up before their 6:30 alarm, O’Bryant was in his bed, but Asha was not, and her mother was unable to find her in the house or out in the family cars

Iquilla told Harold that shew as unable to find their daughter, he suggested that Asha might have gone over to his mother’s house just across the street; but when Iquilla called over there, her sister-in-law stated Asha was not there, and that’s when Iquilla went into panic mode, and called the police after contacting her mother.

By 6:40 AM, the police officer had arrived on scene, police dogs were called to the scene but could not pick up Asha’s scent, probably due to the rain the night before. Iquilla was walking the neighborhood calling out Asha’s name which awoke the neighborhood by 7:00 AM. Friends, Family and neighbors canceled their plans for the day to help the police search the vicinity while the pastor of their church came to Degree’s home along with other clergymen, to help support them.

A search began that day that led to the location of where some of her personal effects were found where she was last seen. But on February 15, candy wrappers were found in a shed at nearby business along the highway where Asha had been seen running in the woods, they also found a pencil, marker, and Mickey-Mouse shaped hair bow that were identified as her belongings. It was there only piece of evidence that traced her during their initial search.

On February 16, Iquilla was looking through Asha’s room when she noticed her favorite clothing, which included a pair of blue jeans with a red stripe was missing. A week later the search was called off after 9,000 man hours had been invested in the search of where she was last seen. Flyers had been posted all over the area, and despite 300 leads that had come into the police department, there was still no update into where Asha was.

On February 22, County Sheriff Dan Crawford said he was going “long range” with the search for Asha, the FBI and the North Carolina’s State of Investigation are now involved and put her on their respective databases for missing children.

From Asha’s mother perspective, Asha was taken, investigators believed she had planned and was prepared for this departure over the several days before her disappearance.

The media attention finally went national, a month after Asha’s disappearance the family went on various TV shows to attract more attention to their missing daughter.

On August 3, 2001, Asha’s bookbag and other items were discovered during a construction project about 26 miles north of Shelby where the family lived. It was wrapped in a plastic bag. The worker who found the bookbag said it contained Asha’s name and phone number. The FBI took it to their headquarters for further forensic analysis but the results have not been shared publicly. Still to this date, this is the last piece of evidence in the disappearance of Asha.

On the 20th Anniversary of Asha’s disappearance, the FBI did confirm that the bookbag contained a copy of Dr. Seuss’s McElligot’s Pool and a T-shift with the band New Kids on the Block. The book was from the library at her school.

The case state cold until 2015, when the FBI announced that FBI agents and the Cleveland Sheriff’s office of investigators and the Statue Bureau of Investigation were going to start re-examining the case and re-interviewing witnesses. They also announced a reward of $25,000 for any information leading to an arrest.

The FBI accounted in May 2016 that their reinvestigation of the case had turned up a possible new lead! , they were told that Asha may have been seen getting into a dark green early 1970’s Lincoln Continental Mark IV or possibly a Ford Thunderbird from the same ear, it was described having rust around its wheel wells.

Photo Credit: Crime Junkie

In October 2018, The Cleveland County Sheriff’s office detectives appealed for information from the public about 2 items of interest, the Dr. Suess book and the New Kids on the Block T-Shirt. AN investigator said that the items are vital clues.

But in November 2020, something new came about that shocked the detectives, an inmate who was convicted of sex crimes against children in 2014, wrote a letter to The Shelby Star, claiming that Asha has been murdered and he knows where to find her, this claim is still under investigation and have not been verified.

With these new clues and leads coming about, we are hoping that Asha will be found and the family will finally get closure.

Anybody with any information about Asha’s disappearance should call the FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100.

 

Sources:

The Unexplained Disappearance of Asha Degree (thetruecrimefiles.com)

Asha Degree | Missing Children Wiki | Fandom (wikia.org)

Disappearance of Asha Degree – Wikipedia

Missing – Asha Degree – Discover: True Crime (wordpress.com)