CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — On Saturday, family and friends of Asha Degree were joined by members of the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office and the FBI as they held their annual walk to remember their daughter, sister, and friend.
- Asha Degree disappeared on February 14, 2000 at the age of 9
- Countless leads and hundreds of interviews have yielded little to no results in the search for Asha
- A $45,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to the person(s) responsible for her disappearance
This year's walk carried an additional weight however, because Friday, February 14, 2020 will mark 20 years since then 9-year-old Asha disappeared. As part of the community's ongoing commitment to bring Asha home, the permanent billboard seeking information on her disappearance and whereabouts was refinished and updated with a new age progressed photo from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
On February 14, 2000, Asha's family says they looked in and saw her sleeping in her bedroom around 2:30 a.m. An hour and a half later, the FBI says drivers reported seeing her walking along N.C. 18 in Shelby.
She has been missing ever since.
Over the years, investigators have followed countless leads and conducted hundreds of interviews in relation to Asha's disappearance.
So far, authorities say the only confirmed pieces of physical evidence found in Asha's case have been some candy wrappers and a hair clip, which were found in a barn in the months following her disappearance, and her black book bag, which was found about a year later alongside N.C. 18.
In 2005, a tip from an unidentified inmate led investigators to an area south of Shelby where officers sifted through dirt and used cadaver dogs to try and locate anything possibly related to the case.
No clues were found.
In 2006, someone reported seeing a girl matching Asha's description in the Detroit area. Again, detectives came up empty-handed.
Another possible break came in 2014 when authorities in South Carolina arrested Donald Ferguson for the 1990 killing of 7-year-old Shalonda Poole in Greensboro. Due to similarities in their cases, and believing he could possibly be tied to Asha's disappearance, detectives conducted a thorough investigation into his whereabouts in Febraury of 2000.
Ferguson later pleaded guilty to Poole's murder and was sentenced to life in prison. No link to Asha's case was ever found.
The most recent leads in Asha's case came in 2016 when the FBI released new information saying a witness reported seeing Asha get into a car the night of her disappearance that was described as a possible early 70s model, dark green Lincoln or Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells. And in 2018, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office reported finding two items of interest, possibly connected to the case.
The items included a Dr. Seuss book titled "McElligot's Pool" that was checked out from the Fallston Elementary School media center, and a concert t-shirt for the New Kids on the Block. So far, these leads have not yielded any results in the search for Asha.
Nevertheless, the search for Asha continues. A $45,000 reward for information leading to the person or persons responsible for her disappearance remains active and her family remains hopeful.
If you or anyone you know has any information connected to this case, please contact the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office at 704-484-4888 or the Charlotte FBI Field Office at 704-672-6100.