Asha Jaquilla Degree was born on Aug. 5, 1990. She was nine years old when she went missing from her home in Shelby, North Carolina, more than 20 years ago. And despite the efforts of local authorities, her whereabouts are still unknown.
At around 2:45 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2000, Asha may have pretended to be asleep when her father returned home from work. He went to her bedroom, which she shared with her then-10-year-old brother, and checked on them.
When she heard him leave the room, it was alleged that she started packing her belongings. Her brother told authorities that he heard a noise, but he thought it was Asha changing positions in her bed.
He went back to sleep.
A short while later, Asha snuck out of the home, located on Oakcrest Drive, with her book bag and never returned, according to the Florida Bureau of Investigation.
At around 6 a.m. that same morning, Asha’s mother went to her bedroom to wake her and her brother up for school.
Asha was a fourth-grade student at Fallston Elementary School.
When Asha wasn’t in her room, her mother initially thought she was downstairs, but she wasn’t. That’s when she alerted her father, who thought that she may have gone to a relative’s house across the street.
She wasn’t there either.
Asha’s parents began searching nearby areas, and when they were unable to find her, they contacted their local police department and reported Asha missing, which prompted a search.
According to the Shelby Star, several motorists reported seeing Asha around 3:15 a.m. walking alone near Highway 18.
One of the drivers stated that when he saw her, he circled back because he thought it was strange that a little girl would be walking on a highway alone.
He added that, as he was driving toward her, she ran into the woods.
That was the last time anyone saw her.
The following day, on Feb. 15, 2000, a search crew found Asha’s Mickey Mouse-shaped hair bow, a marker, a pencil, and candy wrappers inside a shed near Highway 18, according to The Charlotte Observer.
On Aug. 3, 2001, eighteen months after Asha’s disappearance, a Burke County contractor said he was “clearing a lot for the construction of a house and its roadway” when he encountered her bookbag.
It had been buried on the construction site, about 26 miles from where Asha was last seen. Fleming stated that when he looked inside, he saw Asha’s name and phone number.
The FBI sent the items to the lab for forensic testing, but the results were not available.
In February 2015, FBI agents, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office investigators, and State Bureau of Investigation agents re-examined the case and re-interviewed witnesses, which led to a new clue.
The FBI announced in May 2015 that someone saw Asha getting into a dark green early 1970s Lincoln Continental Mark IV or possibly a Ford Thunderbird near Highway 18, where she was last seen.
It was reported that the vehicle contained rust around the wheels.
Although it’s been two decades since Asha went missing, her mother told the media in 2019 that she’s “not going to give up till the case is closed, one way or another. I still think she’s alive; I don’t really care what nobody else thinks.”
“If (God) already had her, there’s no way he wouldn’t let us know. The God we serve wouldn’t let us suffer like that for no reason.”
Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Asha Jaquilla Degree is encouraged to contact the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office at (704) 484-4900.
A reward of $20,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for her disappearance.
Also, a community group is offering an additional $20,000.