New Lead in Search for Asha Degree

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SHELBY, N.C. – A busy night inside a sandwich shop in Shelby. Customers, in between bites, might glance over to the community bulletin board. They might see this poster, still front and center, for a little girl missing since 2000. Asha Degree was just nine years old when she vanished.

“I know it’s been a long time now, but I remember it pretty good when it happened,” says customer Roger Bowen. His wife Linda says, “I just hope they could find her body and have closure, because the family needs it.”

Steven Parker has worked at the sandwich shop for five years. WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked, “Do people ever talk about (Asha)? Do you ever hear conversations about her?” Parker replied, “All the time. I’ll hear people mention (the case), asking if anybody was ever caught or anything like that.”

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman tells WCCB they got a new lead last week. He says, “In fact it was the news media that called (them with the lead).”

Fifty-two-year-old Donald Ferguson of Spartanburg was just arrested for the 1990 murder of a seven-year-old girl from North Carolina. Investigators are working to see if a hunch that Ferguson may have passed through the Shelby area when Asha disappeared pans out. Norman says, “The main thing we wanna know is: where was this individual 14 years ago? Who did he socialize with? Did he work? All the pertinent information concerning where he was at and what he did.”

The sheriff says there’s no time frame for when they’ll have answers. If they are able to make an arrest, “That would be wonderful,” says Bowen. In the meantime, Asha Degree’s smiling face will remain front and center on the poster at the sandwich shop, and on the minds of many in Shelby. Parker says, “We don’t take it down because there’s always a chance, you know?” 

Asha would be 23 years old today. The sheriff says, besides this possible connection to Ferguson, they continue to get leads “on occasion.”