Day 2: Disappearance of Asha Degree
Updated: Apr 18
Day 2 of #31daysofcrime where we post a new case everyday on here and in a minisode on our podcast (link below).
If you would like to listen to this case rather than read it, click here.
Asha Degree had a mother, Iquilla, and a father, Harold, who both loved her dearly and created a great home environment for her. They lived in Shelby, NC and not far at all from other family. Asha was playful and kind, a lover of church and she took all of that knowledge to heart. With perfect attendance and great grades Asha still loved to do art on her own and participate in sports. It is even reported that Asha and her brother would come home after school and start homework and chores right away. That is one amazing kid, I know as a kid myself I would never have had the self discipline to do that. It seems that Asha had a wonderful childhood so far and that it would continue on through her life.
But for some reason on February 14, 2000 Asha packed up and left her house, never to be found.
Around 8p.m. on February 13, 2000 Asha and her brother both went to bed since they had to be up early for school the next morning. At some point the power went out in the neighborhood due to a bad thunderstorm and a car crashing into a pole near the home.
When Harold, Asha’s dad, got home from work at 12:30a.m. on February 14th the power came back on. Once he got in the door he went to check on the children like he always did. They were both in their beds seemingly sleeping peacefully.
Before he went to bed at 2:30a.m. he checked on them once more to see they were still doing well.
Some time close behind when Harold went to bed Asha’s brother heard her get up to use the bathroom. A few minutes after he heard what sounded like her crawling back into bed.
That morning, around 6:30a.m. Asha’s mother went to wake up the children and get them ready for school but did not find Asha in bed. She scoured the house but her daughter was no where to be found. The parents called police, family, and friends to try and find her. By later that morning much of their community was searching for this little girl but nothing of hers was found.
When Asha was not found the police brought the investigation back to the family and the home. They discovered that Asha’s backpack, purse, and many clothes were gone. Since the entire family eventually passed polygraph tests the theory became that Asha ran away of her own free will. Since all the doors and windows had been locked the morning after she disappeared this corroborated that theory as well.
That night of February 14th, 2000 the local Shelby, NC news stations broadcast Asha’s story. This caused three separate people to call in and say they had seen her walking down the side of the highway near her home early that morning. The time span of these sightings were between 3:45a.m. to 4:15a.m. which seems to fit into the timeline that we discussed above. It is my understanding that only one of the three witnesses pulled over and tried to help her, but it was to no avail. Asha ran straight into the woods when this person tried to help her.
This seems to show her maturity in that she knew not to trust a stanger. It is very puzzling to me why she would run away if she knew the dangers of the outside world…at least some of them.
Police followed up on this particular lead and brought searches into the woods. They found evidence that she had stayed overnight in a shed that belonged to a local business. The evidence was candy wrappers, and belongings that she might have played with while she was there. But the question was still there, why would a happy young girl run away? And especially why in the middle of a thunderstorm?!
Well, August 3, 2001 was the next time a real lead would pop up in the investigation. This was the day that Asha’s backpack was found wrapped in plastic bags and buried at a construction site. It is important to mention that this construction site was 26 miles in the opposite direction Asha was walking that fateful night. There were also mens khaki pants found at this site, but nothing else of any importance.
There are pretty much 2 theories on this case…
This theory is the most plausible in my mind. It is that Asha ran away of her own free will. This could have been due to the book her english class had just finished reading in which children run away from their home but return at some point (The Whipping Boy.) Or it could be something within her own mind, there is really no sign to a child wanting to run away.
This theory also states that after she ran away she was met with foul play. This is backed up by where and how her backpack was found. It would’ve been pretty much impossible for Asha to walk 26 miles in the opposite direction she was heading. On top of that why would she leave her backpack, and bury it in such a weird way? If it was someone who simply found her back pack there was no reason for that person to suspiciously bury it rather than take it to police. The only explanation there is that Asha met someone who did not have her best interest in mind and knew they had to dispose of things that would identify her.
To me this theory doesn’t make too much sense just because of Asha’s family life. This theory is that Asha was groomed by an adult in her community who then told her to meet them somewhere. In this scenario the shed Asha spent the night in was the meeting place, even though there is no evidence of someone else being there with her. After this the person in question took Asha and either kept her or killed her, we might never know that part of the theory sadly.
The reason I don’t believe this is because she was only 9 and the internet wasn’t a big thing yet. Nowadays 9 year olds have phones and access to twitter or Facebook where they can meet predators, but back in 2000 that wasn’t really a thing. Being only 9 her family was also still protective over her, she went to school and sports, etc. and then came home. So where did she meet this person? If she had met a person her family or someone most likely could’ve recognized them because they would’ve seen them with her before.
Sorry, I know I got a little rambly there but that theory just doesn’t make sense to me.
Here is an aged portrait of Asha Degree, she might look something like this today.
If you know anything please contact the Shelby Police Department at (704) 484-6845
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