Each time you hear the words “missing child” in the news, the memory about horrific details of unsolved crimes you read years ago in newspapers is refreshed.

Suddenly you remember everything very clearly, and the worry that another similar heinous rape and killing could happen again creeps the spine.

A child can go missing for various reasons; the child may be lost or injured and could not find a way home, a victim of abduction or abandonment, runaway, or murdered.

Regardless of the reason, however, every child deserves the safety and security of being a protective adult. Alone out there among strangers, desperately vulnerable kids are easily exposed to all sorts of dangers.

When Asha Degree disappeared from home more than 20 years ago, many people thought she ran away, for she needed some time alone to cope with the disappointment over a defeat in a basketball game and that the little girl would return to her parents soon.

Hours turned into days, then days into weeks, months, and years. She never went home. Every lead has been investigated to no avail. Asha Degree is still missing.




FBI

10 /10 My Daughter Is Alive

In the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2000, a 9-year-old Asha Degree disappeared without much of a trace.

The disappearance of the fourth-grader sent a shockwave all across her rural community of Shelby, and until today remains a mystery.

The police, the FBI, and her family have been on the search for clues ever since. Her mother, Iquilla Degree, still believes Asha is alive even after more than 20 years of not knowing her daughter’s whereabouts.

The mother maintains that no 9-year-old could disappear into thin air without somebody out there knowing something.



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9 /10 Local Person Of Interest

As of today, the case remains an open investigation. Local detectives are still receiving and reviewing leads.

FBI investigators from the Charlotte Field Office routinely revisit case files in the hope of finding plausible hints, new angles, or previously unseen patterns.

Although not proven, investigators think someone in the local area holds the key to unlock the case.

Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office Detective, Tim Adams, came out of retirement in 2014 to take the lead in the department’s probe of the case.






8 /10 Not Much Of A Clue

During the first few hours of the investigation, the police learned that Asha Degree disappeared from her bedroom sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on February 14, 2000.

Asha and her brother were still in the bedroom when their father Harold checked on them just a few hours after midnight that day.

She was nowhere to be found in the morning when Iquilla went to wake them up for school. Neither the bedroom nor the house showed any sign of forced entry. There wasn’t even a good trail of scent for search dogs to follow.

7 /10 Basketball Game

According to her parents, Asha was upset about her poor performance in a basketball game two days before she went missing.

During the game, she fouled out, and her team ended up losing by one point.

The parents also said that her disappointment seemed to have somewhat dissipated the next day when the family went to Sunday school and church together.

Based on this information, investigators didn’t initially rule out the possibility of a runaway case rather than abduction or missing child.

6 /10 Into The Woods

Investigators received two separate tips in the afternoon, claiming to have seen a young female walking along Highway 18 in the early morning at around 4 a.m. The girl was heading in the opposite direction of Asha’s home.

A driver who reported seeing Asha just outside Shelby couldn’t help but wonder why a small child would be out by herself at that unusual hour, especially when there was a raging storm.

One caller claimed to have circled back to check on the girl, but she had already left the highway and gone into the woods.

FBI

5 /10 Book Bag Found

It would take investigators over a year later to find another significant clue.

On August 3, 2001, about 30 miles north of the reported sighting, construction workers found a book bag belonging to Asha when digging the access road for a new home.

Inside the bag were two items: a concert T-shirt with a picture of the boy band New Kids on the Block and a children’s book McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss.

While the bag is Asha’s, the items inside were not. However, the book was borrowed from the library at Asha’s school.

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4 /10 A Dark Green Car

The sheriff’s office, the FBI, and the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation teamed up to re-examine the case in 2015. It was around the same time that they bumped into another strong lead.

A report of a possible sighting of Asha said the girl might have been seen entering a dark green 1970s model of either Ford Thunderbird or Lincoln Continental Mark IV with some rust around the wheel.

FBI released images of the vehicle models in 2016. So far, nothing has come out of the lead. The joint investigation has since accumulated more than 350 leads.

FBI

3 /10 $45,000 Reward

In collaborative work with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the FBI has released an age-progressed photo of Asha Degree, showing what she may look like as a 29-year-old woman.

There is a reward of $45,000 in total for any information leading to the whereabouts of Asha Degree. The FBI contributes to $25,000 of it, while the rest is offered by the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office and the local community.

Several years back, the FBI also sent its Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team to Shelby to interview suspects and analyze the scene.

2 /10 Latest Lead

One of the most recent leads came from Marcus Mellon, an inmate at the Alexander Correctional Institute.

In a letter he sent to the Shelby Star Newspaper, he claimed to know what happened to Asha Degree, saying she had been murdered and he knew where to find her body. Mellon asked the information be passed to the FBI.

He wanted to be interviewed. The letter was sent during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving investigators with no choice but to postpone the visit to the correctional facility.

FBI

1 /10 Still Missing

An interview finally happened. Mellon and another inmate gave the information to the investigators.

As it turned out, the story given by the two inmates was a third-hand account; they heard it from someone else who had heard about it from another person. It was of dubious origin, leading to no new discoveries.

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said despite the suspicion that tips from inside jails may come with hidden agenda, detectives would take every information seriously and run an investigation on it. As of now, Asha Degree is still missing.

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