I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience of having someone go missing in my family.
Asha Degree was 9 years old when she went missing from Shelby North Carolina. She stood at 4’6 and weighed 60 pounds. She has black hair, brown eyes and likes to wear her hair in pigtails. She is of African American descent and her name is pronounced ‘Ay-Sha’. She was possibly wearing white jeans, a white shirt, and white sneakers at the time of her disappearance.
Asha was born on August 5th, 1990, to Harold and Iquilla Degree in North Carolina. She was the second child to them, their first was her older brother O’Bryant. Harold and Iquilla married on Valentine's day in 1988. The couple moved into a home on Oakcrest Street in Shelby North Carolina.
Asha was a shy and quiet little girl who did well in school. She also played basketball and had a good loving home life. She was in fourth grade at Fallston Elementary school. The day before she went missing she lost her basketball game for the first time of the season. She was upset over this but calmed down after a few hours.
On February 14th, 2000, her mother put the children to bed at around 8 pm. Their father worked a late-night job and came home around 11 pm. Her father got up to check on the kids before going to bed himself around 2:30 am. It was freezing outside, windy, and raining heavily. Asha and her older brother shared a bedroom and he saw both children asleep in their beds. O’Bryant said he heard a noise like a bed squeaking that night but thought it was just his sister tossing and turning in her bed and thought nothing of it.
The next morning Asha’s mother went to wake the kids for school and to take a bath at about 5:45 am but found Asha’s bed empty. They called the police immediately and a search began but she was nowhere to be found.
At around 3:30-4:15 am, two truck drivers claim to have seen a young girl fitting Asha’s description walking down Highway 18, North of Shelby. She was close to intersection 180 about a mile from her home. The truckers said they called 911 about the little girl but when one returned to the area she was gone. The other said he saw her walk off the roadway and disappear into the dark woods.
Police arrived on the scene at about 6:30 am, they searched the home and surrounding areas but found nothing. The doors in the home were all locked with no sign of forced entry leading detectives to believe she left on her own accord. They also noticed several of her personal belongings missing from the home. It appeared she took a black bookbag, a Tweety Bird purse, a pair of blue jeans with a red stripe, black sneakers, a white long-sleeved shirt with purple lettering, black overalls with Tweety Bird on them, red vest with black trim, and a long-sleeved black and white shirt. It looked as though she had packed her bags to be gone for a few days. She also had a set of house keys in her book bag that were missing as well.
Three days later, on February 17th some of her belongings were found on the ground in a doorway at Turners Upholstery just off Hwy 18. This was close to the area she was last seen by the truckers. The items were a pencil, marker, and Micky Mouse hair bow. The police searched the area but found nothing more.
They also got a tip that Asha might have gotten into a dark green vehicle, either a 1970’s Ford Thunderbird or Lincoln Mark IV with rust around the wheel wells.
On February 23rd the search was called off for Asha Degree.
2001 New Evidence Found
In August 2001, 18 months after she went missing, a contractor found a black bookbag buried next to HWY 18. The bag had her name and home phone number written on it. It was found double wrapped in black plastic garbage bags and had a few more of her belongings inside. It’s not confirmed by police but it’s been said that her name was written on a piece of paper that was inside the bag along with some clothing and a pencil case.
The bag was taken to a federal laboratory for testing but police haven’t released any information if they have any. The area the bag was found was thoroughly searched but no other evidence was found. The location was 26 miles from her home in the opposite direction from where she was last seen. Her belongings were found in Burk county. Foul play is suspected in her case.
2020 Possible Lead
In 2020 Marcus Mellon, an inmate convicted in 2014 of sexual crimes against children, wrote a letter to The Star news station saying he knew where Asha was and how she died. He claimed someone killed her and he knew where her body was buried. He wanted to talk to the FBI but unfortunately, the global pandemic would prove to be an obstacle.
Eventually, the Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman followed up and spoke to Marcus and another inmate. Sadly the information relayed was all second and third-party accounts that didn’t lead anywhere.
One theory that has been circulating the internet is that Asha was sleepwalking and disappeared. She has no history of sleepwalking, and it’s believed that she packed her bags and left on a cold stormy night. Surly the cold rain would have woken her from her sleepwalking.
Another theory is that she was murdered by a family member. When a child goes missing the family is almost always the first people police will suspect, either the mom or dad, maybe the brother accidentally did something. The Degree family checked out though and they were quickly ruled out as having anything to do with Asha’s disappearance. They were planning on moving soon but after Asha went missing the family stayed in their home for over a decade before finally moving to a new home. They always held out hope that Asha would come back home one day. This theory is technically still possible but highly improbable.
The next theory is the most likely theory that she ran away from home. Why though? She had just had her first loss in a basketball game the day before, could she have still been upset over that? Her family said she calmed down after a couple of hours. Another idea is that she was trying to act out one of the books her fourth-grade class had recently read. It’s called ‘The Whipping Boy’ by Sid Fleischman and it details a young Prince and a commoner child who takes lashings on behalf of the royals. The children in the story run away and it describes their adventures while on the run. Both boys return safely to the kingdom at the end of the book. It seems possible she might want to recreate what she read in the book but it’s not known if this was her motive.
Another possible theory is that someone lured her into running away. It would have had to have been someone close to her to convince her to run away, but who? Asha was a shy little girl who grew up in a rather sheltered life. The family didn’t even own a computer for her to get on and talk to online strangers.
Asha’s mother and father still hold out hope that one day their daughter will return home safe and alive. Without closure all they have left is hope. They run marathons every year to bring awareness to the case but this year thanks to the pandemic they had to cancel the marathon and other plans on the anniversary of their daughter's disappearance.
If you have any information on where Asha is or where she might be please call one of these numbers 704-484-4788 or 704-672-6100.
You can also call the NC Cleaveland County Sheriff's Office at 1-704-484-4822.
There is a reward of $45,000 for information leading to an arrest or Asha’s location.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.