New Age-Processed Photo Released Of Asha Degree Who Has Been Missing For 20 Years

CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — It has been 20 years since the disappearance of 9-year-old Asha Degree. The investigation is still ongoing with a new age-processed photo to assist in the search.

Degree went missing on February 14, 2000 from her home near Shelby.

“The fact that it was a small child that left on Valentine’s Day really caught everybody’s heart in this community,” Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office Detective Tim Adams said in a news release. “She’s been called Shelby’s Sweetheart, because she’s a child that’s one of our own that has gone missing, and we want to find out what happened to her.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children produced the new images in January 2020 of how she might look as a 29-year-old. The image will be featured on local billboards in Charlotte to help in the search.

Adams strongly believes that someone can help to piece information together to help find her.

Since 2015 when the sheriff’s office teamed up with the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to re-exam the case they have since generated more than 350 leads, including 45 in the past year.

What is Known:

The 9-year-old disappeared from her bedroom on February 14 between 2:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. There was no sign of forced entry and no promising scent trail for search dogs to follow.

The afternoon she went miss there were two separate reports of a young female walking along Highway 18, in the opposite direction of the Degrees’ home, around 4 a.m.

“That was the last time anyone had a sighting of Asha that had actually been confirmed,” Adams said in a news release.

On August 3, 2001, some 30 miles north of the last sighting, construction workers digging an access road for a new home in neighboring Burke County found a book bag that belonged to Asha.

Inside was a concert T-shirt featuring boy band New Kids On The Block and a children’s book, McElligot’s Pool, by Dr. Seuss. Neither belonged to her but the book was from the library at Fallston Elementary which she attended.

Investigators released images of the shirt and book in 2018.

The 2015 during the re-investigation another possible lead turned up. Degree may have been seen getting into a dark green 1970s-model Lincoln Continental Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells.

Photos were released of the vehicle in 2016.

“We encourage anybody out there that if they have any information—no matter how small or minor it may seem—it might be extremely crucial to further us getting one step closer to Asha,” FBI Special Agent Michael Gregory said in a news release. “We will continue to pursue all avenues to find out what circumstances led to her disappearance, and we will continue to pursue this case at all costs.”

The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward on top of $20,000 set aside by the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office and the community.

For more information on the search efforts, click HERE. Additional information HERE.