Valentine’s Day Mystery: Seventeen years pass and still no answers in young girl’s disappearance

Today marks 17 years since 9-year-old Asha Degree mysteriously vanished from the bedroom of her family’s Shelby, North Carolina home.

Asha was last seen sleeping in her bedroom around 2:30 a.m. on February 14, 2000. Investigators believe the young girl then left the house, though it remains unclear why.

An hour and a half later, several drivers reported seeing a girl matching Asha’s description walking along Highway 18 in Shelby, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. More than a year later, her book bag was found buried along the same highway in Burke County.

Sixteen years passed before a new clue emerged in the case. Last May, investigators said they received information that Asha may have been seen getting into a “distinctive vehicle”, described as an early 1970’s Lincoln Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird, dark green in color, with rust around the wheel wells.

Although additional information has not been released since, investigators continue to re-examine every aspect of the case with the hopes of determining exactly what happened to Asha.

Asha’s family is holding onto the hope that Asha will be found one day, while they continue to make sure her story is not forgotten. Friends and family gather for a march from the Degree home to Asha’s last known whereabouts every year, the Shelby Star reports.

“Hope is all I have, and I refuse to let anyone take that away from me,” Asha’s mother told the Shelby Star. “I won’t stop until I have closure, either way.”

A reward of up to $45,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Asha’s disappearance.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 704-672-6100