February 14th, 2000, 9-year-old Asha Degree disappeared from her North Carolina home in the middle of the night and hasn't been seen since.
Upon researching this case I noticed the abundance of different information on various parts of the web, one website saying this, one website saying that, and so on. The utmost priority of this blog, Murders and Coffee, is to keep unsolved cases in the public eye, not letting them being forgotten, and to the best of my ability spread the RIGHT information.
The disappearance of a shy, beautiful, and joyful 9-year-old girl rocked the North Carolina town of Shelby, naming Asha “Shelby’s Sweetheart”, the community joined forces to find Asha. To no prevail, 20 years have come and gone with no answer to this tragic mystery. “After 20 years, I still believe my daughter is alive, 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.” said Iquilla Degree.
February 13th, 2000, all appeared to be normal as 9-year-old Asha (pronounced AY-Shuh) and her 10-year-old brother O’Bryant, returned home from church services on that Sunday afternoon, and went to bed in the room they shared at around 8 pm. Roughly an hour later, a car accident causes the power to go out in the whole neighborhood, with the power coming back on at around 12:30 am Asha’s Father, Harold Degree, walked into the bedroom of his children to see them fast asleep. He later checked on the children at 2:30 am, assured they were okay, he went to sleep. Asha and her bookbag filled with her personal items and some set of clothes disappeared from the Degree home sometime between 2:30 and 6:30 am that stormy Valentine’s Day morning.
5:45 am that morning, Iquilla Degree had awoken and drew her children a bath, due to them not being able to take a bath the night before because of the power outage, just before 6:30 am she opened the door to her children’s room to only see O’Bryant and Asha’s bed lay empty. Immediately searching the house and the family vehicles with no discovery, Harold speculated Asha might have gone over to his mother’s house who lived across the street, they phoned the home and were told Asha was not there, immediately going into panic mode Iquilla called her mother who told her to call the police.
Police immediately arrived on the scene and the search of Asha Degree was now underway and still is to this day. Investigators brought in search dogs to track to Asha scent but were unable to uncover any trail. No signs of forced entry were noted in the home. Family members and neighbors quickly riled together to search the surrounding area. The public news coverage of the disappearance of Asha prompted possible witnesses to come forward with alleged sightings. 2 separate witnesses reported to investigators that Valentines days afternoon to have seen a young girl walking south along Highway 18 at around 4 am that night, with one witness turning back around to try and help her, but she ran away from him into the woods. According to Detective Tim Adams of the Cleveland County Sheriff’s office, “That was the last time anyone had a sighting of Asha that had actually been confirmed”. Investigators began to believe Asha left on her own accord, walking out of her home and leaving her neighborhood with her backpack. The Family of Asha deny the possibility of Asha running away, noting the poor weather conditions of that night, Asha had appeared happy the days before her disappearance, and she did not fit the typical profile of a runaway. The typical home environment of runaway did not fit the pattern of the Degree household, by all accounts, Asha was in healthy environment. Iquilla Degree said "She was the type of child that would give you the shirt off her back. She never wanted anybody mad at her for anything. She wanted everybody to be her friend. She wanted everybody to be happy”.
Items appeared to belong to Asha were discovered in the doorway of a toolshed at Turners Upholstery off Highway 18, about a mile from Asha’s home, the items were Asha’s marker, pencil, Mickey Mouse Bow. A search was done of the area but no additional information was collected.
More than a year had passed with no new information until Asha’s bookbag was discovered buried at a construction site 30 miles away from where she was last seen, in August of 2001, her bookbag had been double wrapped in black trash bags. Near the area, a pair of men’s khaki pants were discovered as well as some bones, later confirmed to be that of an animal. Upon the discovery of Asha’s bookbag, they suspect Asha came under foul play after leaving her home that stormy night.
In 2016 The FBI announced a potential lead in Asha’s case, releasing images of 2 potential vehicles Asha may have been seen getting into, a dark green 1970’s Lincoln Continental Mark IV or a dark green Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells. In 2018 investigators released 2 items that had been discovered in Asha’s book bag, a white and red New Kids on the Block concert t-shirt, and a book that had been checked out from Asha’s school library, “McElligot’s Pool” by Dr. Suess.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released age-progressed images of what Asha would like in 2019, at the age of 29.
Investigators are still puzzled as to what made Asha Degree leave her home that night. But Asha’s family has never stopped praying for her safe return. Iquilla Degree said "We’re hoping and we’re praying that she’s had a halfway decent life anyway, even though we didn't get to raise her. She was 9 years old and now she’ll be 30 this year. So, we’ve missed everything. But I don't care. If she walked in the door right now, I wouldn't care what I missed. All I want to do is see her.”
20 years have come and gone, but we are still searching for you, Asha, and we will never stop. Asha Degree would now be 30 years old, is an African American Female with brown eyes, and wore pigtails at the time of her disappearance. If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Asha Degree please contact the tip line at (704) 672-6100 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST, that’s 1-800-843-5678.