A “Spirited” But Shy 4th Grader
On Valentine’s Day, 2000 Asha left her home in the middle of the night. A motorist reported seeing her along North Carolina Highway 18, in Shelby, North Carolina getting into a late model green car.
Cleveland County Sheriff's Office
February 14, 2000 | Shelby, NC
Cleveland County Sheriff's Office
Though often described as quiet and shy, 9-year old Asha Degree, came alive on the basketball court. She was a passionate point guard and she loved the game. She had dreams of being an illustrator when she grew up, and with her excellent attendance records and exceptional grades, it seems she was on her way to a bright future. Asha lived with her close-knit family; parents, Harold and Iquilla, and 110-year-old brother O’Bryant, in Shelby, North Carolina. The family prioritized school, church and visits with extended family, but were protective of the children’s social and extracurricular activities. Other than family and school, the most important thing in Asha’s life was basketball.
Asha played on a youth league team in the Fallston area as point guard. The Saturday before her disappearance, Asha had a basketball game—the first in a tournament, but sadly, her team lost. Naturally, she was disappointed, but her mother says she recovered and stayed to watch her brother’s game.
The next day, Sunday, February 13, 2000, Asha and her family spent their morning at church like normal. They went to their Aunt Alisha’s house for lunch, and the children visited with their grandmother. The family returned home around 8 pm, and because the power had gone out due to a car accident, the kids skipped their baths and got ready for bed. Asha and O’Bryant shared a bedroom and settled in for the night. After this, Asha’s family would never see her again.
Asha’s mother, Iqulla, awoke early to give the kids a bath on February 14. They would need to get up earlier than usual since they didn’t take them last night. Not only was it Valentine’s day, it was also Iquila and her husband, Harold’s, 11th wedding anniversary. Undoubtedly, a devastating day to discover her beloved daughter, Asha, missing from her bed. When Iquilla couldn’t find her anywhere in the house, in the family’s cars or property, Iquilla called nearby family members to see if she had gone across the street to see them. When nobody else knew where she was, she immediately called the police and a full search was in effect before 8 am.
The last known sighting of Asha was on February 14, 2000, between 3:30 and 4:15 am. A truck driver and another motorist saw her walking South on Highway 18 North of Shelby, NC. When one of the motorists turned around to check on Asha, the driver reported she ran into the woods. After extensive police searches that day, items belonging to Asha were found in a tool shed behind Debbie Turner’s Upholstery shop, roughly a mile north of Asha’s residence.
Over a year later on August 3, 2001, a construction contractor found Asha’s backpack buried at their worksite. Inside was a children’s book belonging to the library of Asha’s school, and a New Kids on the Block t-shirt which did not belong to Asha. More recently, law enforcement shared new details that a witness reportedly saw Asha get into either an early 1970s green-Lincoln Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells, on the day she disappeared.
Asha Degree’s disappearance has spurred several theories. Some suspect an abduction or perhaps that she was groomed by someone she knew, and many believe she ran away by choice. Police believe she falls outside of the typical profile of a runaway, but she did have a backpack with her.
There is no conclusive evidence telling us exactly what happened, leaving us to wonder, ‘What happened to Asha Degree?’ and, ‘Can we help find her?’
The day before Asha disappeared, Asha Degree’s parents and younger O’Bryant spent their morning at church as always, and went to their Aunt Alisha’s house to spend time and have lunch with their grandmother. After they returned home, Asha and her older brother went to bed in their shared bedroom and Asha would seemingly disappear into thin air.
Asha was last seen on February 14, 2000, between 3:30 and 4:15 am by a truck driver and another motorist walking South on highway 18 North of Shelby, NC. When one of the motorists turned around to check on Asha, the driver reported she ran into the woods. After extensive police searches that day, items belonging to Asha were found in a tool shed behind Debbie Turner’s Upholstery shop, roughly a mile north of Asha’s residence. Over a year later on August 3, 2001, a construction contractor found Asha Degree’s backpack buried at their worksite, inside were a children’s book belonging to the library of Asha’s school, and a band t-shirt which did not belong to Asha. More recently, law enforcement shared new details that a witness reportedly saw Asha get into either an early 1970s green-colored Lincoln Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells the day she disappeared.
Asha Degree theories span anywhere from abduction to Asha running away by choice, to Asha being groomed by someone she knew. Although there is no evidence to show what exactly happened, the biggest question everyone is asking is what happened to Asha Degree?
“I do not believe she is dead. And I know someone knows something. I’m not crazy enough to think that a 9-year-old can disappear into thin air without somebody knowing something.”
– Iquilla Degree, Asha Degree’s mother
What’s Left To Be Uncovered
Sadly, Asha Degree is one of the 200,000+ cold cases that are still unsolved. But, together we can make an impact. Here are five ways to help you start thinking about how your insights, actions and awareness can help uncover answers in Asha’s case:
In The Next Five Days
If you lived in or near Shelby, NC in 2000 and you knew someone with a green 1970s model Ford Thunderbird or Lincoln Mark IV with rust around the wheel wells, please send in a tip to FBI Charlotte: 704-672-6100.
In The Next Five Months
Become an Uncovered Cold Case Captain and invite a friend to join you. We are continuously visualizing cold case like Asha’s, and we need your help. Having you as a digital volunteer to uncover answers using publicly available information with our team is one step closer to our mission of finding the intersection of justice, peace, and closure for the families of the murdered and missing.
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