Around 2:30 a.m. on February 14, 2000, Iquilla Degree checked on her sleeping daughter, nine-year-old Asha. It was the last time anyone saw her.
Just four hours later, when Iquilla went to wake up Asha for school, she was gone. Frantically, the family began to search for her. Witnesses said they’d seen a small girl walking on the road two miles from the Degree household on the night she went missing. Nearby, in a small tool shed, investigators found school supplies, candy wrappers, and a hair bow.
Eighteen months later, Asha’s backpack was found stuffed into a trash bag and discarded on a highway 26 miles from her home. Over the past 17 years, there have been many false leads, but no concrete evidence telling the family what happened that night.
Using age progression software, the FBI made this image of what 25-year-old Asha might look like today. It’s believed that Asha walked away from the family home, perhaps upset about losing a basketball game, before being abducted. However, her brother maintains that he heard strange noises that night, but assumed it was just a family member using the bathroom.
Asha’s case is still open and her family has not given up hope of finding her alive. Her mom says, “She is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last when I go to bed. I just want her to know we love her and haven’t given up.”
Every year, the Degree family hosts a walk in Asha’s honor on the day she went missing. They say they never expected people to give up their Valentine’s Day, but year after year, residents of Cleveland County, North Carolina, continue to show up and stand in solidarity with the family.
Recently, the FBI shared a new piece of information. In May, a new witness told them that on the night Asha went missing, they saw a young girl get into a 1970s Lincoln Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird. The vehicle had substantial rust around the wheel well.
If you have information about this case, police urge you to call Crime Stoppers at 704-481-TIPS. The chance that Asha could still be alive is slight, but as we know from cases like Jaycee Dugard, who was imprisoned for 18 years and Amanda Berry, held in captivity for 10 years, it does happen.
Please help honor Asha’s memory by sharing her story. Hopefully, her family will finally learn what happened to their beloved daughter all those years ago.
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