Left photo is Asha Jaquilla Degree Right photo is age progressed to 19 years. She will be turning 24 this year

There was a thunderstorm happening in Shelby, North Carolina on Valentines Day, 2000 when Asha Degree, then 9, disappeared from her bed at her Shelby, NC home. Harold Degree, Asha’s father, last seen her sleeping in her bed at 2:30am but when they went to wake her up at 6:30am she was not in her bedroom and they contacted police and they, along with Asha’s parents and volunteers, immediately started searching the neighborhood. They noticed her book-bag was missing as well, indicating she left on her own accord. But why would a nine-year old child leave in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm?

Police asked the public if anyone may have seen Asha that night and witnesses came forward and reported seeing her walking along North Carolina Highway 18 right by Shelby at approximately 4am. One motorist told police he was concerned wondering why a little girl was walking along the Highway alone so late and circled by three times and noticed her run off into the woods.

“She walks out of the house and heads down 18 South towards Shelby. Several people say that they see her. But no one stops to make sure she’s OK. She runs off into the woods. And no one has seen her since.” Cleveland County Sheriff’s Det. Pete Hamrick said in an interview ten years after the disappearance.

“She was scared to death of dogs,” Harold Degree said. “I never thought she would go out of the house.”

Her mother, Iquilla Degree, said she believes her daughter packed her school bag and put clothes in it.

“The theory is that some time during the night she gets up,” Hamrick said.

Searches along Highway 18 were conducted that same day and during the search they found a shed within the woods and inside the shed they found Asha’s hair-barrette, along with some empty candy wrappers. Asha however, was never located nor did police find any evidence to indicate what might have happened to her, although they strongly suspect foul-play.

Over one year later Asha’s back-pack was found buried along Highway 18 in Burke County. This deepened Charlotte County Sheriff’s opinion that Asha met with foul-play and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Charlotte became involved.

CCSO and FBI are still hoping that one day they will receive a lead that will finally bring this case to a close.

Date of Birth:  August 5, 1990
Date of Disappearance: Feb 14, 2000
Age then: 9 Age Now: 24
Height: 4’6″ (at time of disappearance)
Weight: 60 pounds (at time of disappearance)
Hair: Black Eyes: Brown
Gender: Female Race: Black

NCMEC Case Number: NCMC879788

Anyone with information regarding this cold case is asked to please contact:

FBI Charlotte at (704) 672-6100, your local FBI office, or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. You can also leave an online TIP on the FBI Website or contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) by calling 1-800-THE-LOST

ABC News
Find A Grave
FBI Website