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The Disappearance of Asha Degree

The Disappearance of Asha Degree

 

Case File Overview

 

On February 14th, 2000 nine-year-old Asha Degree vanished without a trace.

Asha lived at home, 3404 Oakcrest StreetShelby, North Carolina, with her mother Iquilla, father Harold, and her ten-year-old brother O’Bryant.

Before heading to bed, Asha’s dad checked on her at 2:30 am and found her asleep in her bed. Asha and her brother O’Bryant shared a bedroom. O’Bryant said he heard noises in the early morning hours but assumed it was his sister tossing and turning in bed.

When Iquilla went to wake up her children for school at approximately 6:30 am, Asha was nowhere to be found.

There was no sign of forced entry, and all of the doors were locked.

Two truck drivers reported seeing Asha walking south on North Carolina Highway 18 around a mile from her home between 3:30 am and 4:15 am. The truckers saw Asha leave the roadway and disappear out of sight.

Three days after Asha disappeared her pencil, marker, and Mickey Mouse hair bow were found in a toolshed at Turner’s Upholstery, located along North Carolina Highway 18 close to where the truckers spotted Asha.

In August 2001, a contractor clearing a lot discovered Asha’s bookbag. It was double wrapped in black plastic bags and buried more than 26 miles away from her home. It was sent for tests, but the results have never been made public.

The authorities and Asha’s family searched tirelessly for Asha, but her disappearance remains unsolved.

 

Asha Degree

Missing person Asha Degree
Image source: WCNC.com

Date of birth: August 5th, 1990

Age at time of disappearance: 9 years old

Height and weight: 4′ 6″ (137 cm) and 60 lbs (27 kg)

Distinguishing characteristics: African-American female; black hair, brown eyes; typically styled her hair in pigtails

Clothing description: Likely a white t-shirt, white jeans, and white sneakers

 

Case File Theories

 

Sleepwalking

One of the most ridiculous theories in this case bandied about the internet is that sleepwalking caused Asha’s death. It’s never been proven that she suffered from sleepwalking. And she would have had to change her clothes and grab her belongings in her sleep without waking up her brother who slept only a few feet away. Even more, did a sleeping Asha really lock the door behind her when she left the house? Additionally, it was freezing cold outside, windy, and pouring rain. Could Asha have slept through this kind of inclement weather? Did she manage to stumble into someone’s pool and drown or get hit by a passing vehicle while sleepwalking? I doubt it. In the end, I give very little credence to the idea that Asha sleepwalked to her death.

Murdered by a family member

Was Asha murdered by a family member? Given that stranger abductions are so rare, when children disappear from their homes in the middle of the night suspicion is usually cast on the child’s family. In this case, however, the family was quickly cleared by the police. By all accounts, Asha lived a happy, if somewhat sheltered, life. The authorities don’t even hint that Asha was murdered by a family member. Also, Asha’s parents have worked tirelessly to find her, seem genuinely distraught, and have remained in the family home for decades on the off chance that Asha might come home. Asha’s mom explained, “I never suspected my husband or my son. Not ever, never ever.” Although possible, it’s highly improbable that Asha was murdered by a family member.

Abducted from home

Was Asha abducted from her home in the middle of the night? This is a near-impossible theory. Could an abductor have happened by the house in the short window of opportunity they would have had to take her? Also, how could Asha have been abducted without waking up her brother who was sleeping only a few feet away? Plus, there was no sign of forced entry and all of the doors were locked. Lastly, if she was abducted from her home, how could two truckers have spotted her walking along North Carolina Highway 18 on the night of her disappearance? I think it’s implausible to think that a sleeping Asha was abducted from her home.

Runaway

Did Asha run away from home? This is the likeliest scenario; however, what compelled Asha to leave home and what happened to her after she left remains a mystery.

Asha left home on her own

The police think that Asha packed her bookbag in advance so she could leave without disturbing anyone. Also, Asha had a key to the house. She could have locked the door behind her when she left. However, the police were unable to find any evidence that Asha was abused or had an unhappy home life. What would compel a nine-year-old girl to run away? There is some talk that Asha was upset that her team recently lost a basketball game, but I doubt this would cause her to leave home. Also, her class was reading The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman before Asha vanished. The story follows the adventures of two characters that run away. But if she wanted to embark on an adventure, would Asha really choose to leave in the middle of a dark, stormy night? And if she decided to run away on her own, what happened to her? Did a stranger murder her? Was she kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking? Could a driver have accidentally struck her and hid her body? The heartbreaking options are almost endless.

Asha was talked into running away

Many people also think that Asha was convinced to run away from home by someone she knew. The question, though, is who would have had the opportunity to get close enough to Asha to convince her to run away. Asha and her brother reportedly led a sheltered life and didn’t even have a computer in the house. Remember that some of Asha’s belongings were found in a toolshed approximately a mile from her home. Was Asha convinced to meet someone there? And if so, how did someone get close enough to Asha to influence her to run away?

What do you think happened to Asha Degree?

Asha’s family holds out hope that she’s still alive. Asha’s mom said, “I’m still expecting to see her walking in the door. When everyone else says this child’s dead, I don’t feel it.”

Investigators also still believe that they’ll find Asha. They have followed hundreds of leads, and new ones keep turning up. For instance, in January 2014 Donald Preston Ferguson plead guilty to the 1990 murder of seven-year-old Shalonda S. Poole. Investigators tried to link Ferguson to Asha’s disappearance due to the geographic proximity of the crimes and the victimology but failed. Also, in May 2016, the police released information about a vehicle Asha may have been seen entering on the night of her disappearance. The vehicle is described as an early 1970s Lincoln Mark IV or a Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells. Nothing, though, has ever come of this lead.

Asha’s loved ones deserve answers. Asha’s mother has said that not knowing what happened to her daughter “is worse than death, because with death you have closure. With this, there’s no closure.” Let’s help Asha and her family find some sense of closure.

Asha Degree

Image of missing person Asha Degree
Image source: Wikipedia

The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward, and the community an additional $20,000 reward, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Asha’s disappearance.

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

Related listening and reading

Missing person: Asha Degree – FBI website

Asha Jaquilla Degree – Charley Project website

Asha Degree – NamUs website

“Family still hopeful on anniversary of girl’s disappearance”WSOCTV.com article

“After 15 years, family keeps searching for Asha Degree” WCNC.com article

“Specialized FBI team joins investigation into Asha Degree’s disappearance” – WSOCTV.com article

“Where is Asha?”Shelby Star article

The disappearance of Asha DegreeThinking Sideways podcast

Asha DegreeThe Trail Went Cold podcast

The vanishing of Asha DegreeTrace Evidence podcast

Interested in missing person cases? Check out the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel and the mysterious vanishing of DA Ray Gricar.

 

 

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24 Comments

  1. Todd Todd

    Darn, what a tragic case. I have no theory on this case… everybody is always going to look at the family first and that’s natural… this case may never be solved. Sad!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Todd. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I couldn’t agree more. This is a tragic, complex case. Here’s hoping that one day it can somehow be solved.

  2. Marlene Marlene

    I was just thinking about her. My feeling is that she went to meet someone. I would guess a family friend or someone from school since she seemed to be sheltered. Why would would she run from truck drivers trying to offer her help, but get into the green car willingly? Seems likely that she knew the driver.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Marlene. I don’t think the truckers actually stopped to help her but merely saw her walking down the street. I think one may have circled back but by the time the trucker returned Asha was gone. I agree with you, though. It’s highly likely she left her home to meet someone she knew. From the information available, it doesn’t seem Asha had any reason to run away, let alone one serious enough to compel her to leave in the middle of the night during bad weather. If the sighting of the green car is accurate, I sure hope the police have made every effort to determine if anyone she knew drove that kind of car. Asha’s family needs some answers. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

      • Marlene Marlene

        Hi Christine. I read somewhere that a driver attempted to offer her assistance and that’s when she ran into the woods. I don’t know how reliable the sighting of her getting into a green car is since the tip came in 16 years after her disappearance. I don’t believe any of her immediate family was involved in her disappearance. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she left on Valentines day either.

        Thanks for responding to my comment.

        • Christine Christine

          Hi Marlene. There are mixed reports as to whether or not anyone actually stopped to help Asha, but regardless multiple people saw her walking down the street on the night she disappeared. I think this in itself makes it unlikely that someone in her immediate family had anything to do with her disappearance. Like you, I question the reliability of a tip received 16 years after a disappearance. Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, even when given right away. Good point about it being Valentine’s Day! Since Valentine’s Day is Asha’s parents’ wedding anniversary, I’ve always wondered if someone could’ve coaxed her out of the house under the ruse of participating in a surprise for them. I hold out hope that one day Asha’s family can find some answers, but as more time passes I worry this becomes more and more unlikely.

          • Marlene Marlene

            Hi Christine,
            The more I think about this the more I am convinced that she was lured out of her house. I have no doubt that someone very close to the family did this. She was put up to it. As I previously mentioned, I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this was done on her parents wedding anniversary. I wonder if the pencil, marker and hair bow were planted? I just doesn’t make sense to me. Also, whoever did this only had approximately three hours to do whatever he did to her (ugh makes me sick to think about what he did to her) I mean, who would know the family’s habits that well. I know her aunt lived down the street from her but did she have a husband, a boyfriend?

          • Christine Christine

            Hi Marlene. I do think that if Asha was lured out of her house it definitely was by someone close to the family or they never could have convinced her to leave. Great point about the aunt. I sure do hope that everyone connected with her household was thoroughly investigated. I had never considered that the items found in the toolshed were planted. I wonder if that could be a part of the puzzle. I think it would explain quite a lot!

          • Marlene Marlene

            Hi Christine,
            I just find it hard to believe that those items in the shed were found after a rain storm. Also, they were discovered by Ms Turner, not the police. Maybe the shed was the meeting point for Asha and her abductor?
            And why is it that Asha was only seen that area? There are no other reported sightings of Asha before or after that location. I feel like this person had to have time and and access to Asha. He had to have been trusted by Asha and her parents. I bet he was previously interview interviewed by the police.

            Thanks for replying to my comments.

            I truly believe that this case can be solved.

          • Christine Christine

            I read somewhere the items were found in the doorway of the shed, which does make me wonder about the impact of the rainstorm on the evidence. If Asha really was in the shed, I agree she was likely lured there by someone well-known to the family. I can’t imagine how they must feel if they have to always question who to trust. What an unimaginable nightmare for her family. I fervently hope that her family gets answers. Thanks again for your insights. I like to think that the discussion of this case will keep it in the public’s and media’s attention. All the best for your weekend.

          • StillHopeful StillHopeful

            Hi!
            Thank you for this post!
            Do you feel there is any credibility into 1) false/misremebered accounts and 2)the mother being who was actually seen; it seems her mom is of very short and small stature.

            I want to know how it was determined the veracity of statements saying she left of her own accord that night.

            In secrets, lies darkness, and it seems there is a lot of that here, coupled with an intense desire to prove a perfect, structured lifestyle.

            I am sorry for the grief those who knew are still going through, however, I feel our PC culture and misapplication of “innocent until proven guilty” has gone overboard. to deleterious effect, affect being the overriding cause at hand.

          • Christine Christine

            Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. Your first question for me is easier; yes, I think people often misremember incidents and/or lie. Therefore, I give little credence to eye witness accounts. Mind you, if an opinion or view of a situation is held by numerous unrelated people I tend to believe it more. If I recall correctly, there was little to no evidence that Asha had a turbulent home life or that her family was involved in her disappearance. That being said, it isn’t impossible. I suppose it could have been Asha’s mom walking down the road. But if you want to argue it wasn’t Asha, then it could have been any person of small stature. This is a hard and complicated case, and I appreciate your tough questions. It is important that the truth be revealed no matter what it might be. Thanks again!

  3. Shurlock Shurlock

    I have always thought the father knows more. And the bookbag is the key. Why not just get rid of it. Why double bag the thing and bury it?

    • Christine Christine

      Right after Asha vanished, some suspicion was cast on her father. But unlike most other similar cases, the police quickly cleared him. Given how often families are involved-stranger abductions are so rare-your suspicions make sense. There seems to be little evidence pointing to his involvement, but it is really hard to know for sure. Great point about the bookbag. The bookbag disposal is very weird. I do think burying it was someone’s way to try to dispose of it. Maybe wrapping it to stop search dogs from picking up the scent? Yet another mystery in an already baffling case. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment!

  4. Johny Jackson Johny Jackson

    Good info. Lucky me I came across your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve bookmarked it for later!

    • Christine Christine

      Great! Thanks for reading.

  5. Johny Jackson Johny Jackson

    Touche. Sound arguments. Keep up the good work.

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks Johny. I hope you have a great weekend.

  6. Anna Lessard Anna Lessard

    So it is said that TRUCKERS saw her on the side of the road? That seems kind of weird to me. First, wouldn’t it be almost totally dark and second if it already heard enough to see a little girl in a regular car how could truckers possibly see her? The white shirt? I dont know. It sounds questionable to me (Not saying they had anything to do with it) but I know there are many people out there who say those things just to get publicity or so they can go around telling people about it. Also, there must be some other person involved right? They found her bookbag in a TRASHBAG. why would Asha throw her bag into a trashbin? Just a accusation.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Anna. It sure was truckers. I saw it reported in some articles that it was one trucker and in others that it was two different truckers. I’m not sure how the trucker(s) saw Asha (if they did). I’m guessing if their lights picked her up she really would have stood out being so small in stature and all alone in the dark. I agree with you that some people are publicity hounds and that could be the case here. But the police seem to give the sightings credence in their interviews, so I’m guessing the truckers confirmed clothing Asha was wearing or something along those lines. I am positive there was another person involved. Like you said, I really doubt she would discard own belongings in such a weird manner. Heartbreakingly, this leads me to conclude that she was murdered and someone was disposing of evidence. My heart goes out to her family and I hope they can get some answers one day soon. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  7. TI789 TI789

    That is the stupidest crap I’ve ever heard–a 9-year-old successfully running away from home, making it miles away from her home & in the middle of the night to boot? Whomever is peddling that stupid, absurd theory needs to find another line of work. I could see a 19 year old, but a nine year old who is sooooooo savvy that she’s pulled off the escape of the century and hasn’t left a trace in almost 20 years but most 9 year olds can’t wipe their butts good nor eat without leaving a mess? DUMB. AND must think WE are dumb as hell too.

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I couldn’t agree more. It’s highly unlikely that Asha took of on her own at her age to start a new life.

  8. DOUG DOUG

    I recently learned of this case through a podcast. In going through the information, I looked at Google Maps to get an idea of the area. If my locations are correct, and assuming that the items in the tool shed did in fact belong to and were placed there by Asha, the troubling part of the area is there appears to be a large pond in the vicinity of the shed. In your research, has this body of water been mentioned as being searched?
    Perhaps she accidentally found her way into the water? or intentionally put there by someone if she indeed met someone at the shed.
    This does not explain the backpack, unless the person she met at the shed felt remorse after the act (cared to double bag it). Just a theory to add to the others.
    Thanks for this Blog! I hope it brings answers

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Doug – Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I haven’t found anything in particular about the authorities searching the large pond by the shed, but there are numerous details out there about how the large search teams used heat sensors, K9s, thorough ground searches, etc. while trying to locate Asha. Given this high level of effort, I am pretty confident that they also would searched the nearby pond. If not, they definitely should have! Here’s hoping that one day Asha’s family can get some answers as to what happened to their daughter. Thanks again!

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