Walking out on your family as an adult is one thing but doing it as a child is quite another. Children are unpredictable and spontaneous, they have a way of keeping us on the edge of our seats, but what happens when we’re forced to stay on that edge forever?
When one little girl decided to take a late-night stroll no one expected for the unexpected to happen. To this day everyone is still baffled and looking for answers…
Searching for Answers
As a little girl Asha grew up in a well-rounded home with her tight knit family. Asha was a shy and timid little girl who always listened to her parents and did everything as best she could, so when Asha did the unthinkable, it left everyone in shock and looking for answers…
Who is Asha?
Asha was born on August 5th, 1990 in Shelby, North Carolina. Her parents Harold and Iquilla were married on Valentine’s day in 1988 and loved Asha and her older brother O’Bryant dearly, they worked their hardest to provide the best life possible for the children. Asha was only 9 years old when she made a decision that would forever change everything…
Father and Daughter Duo
Everyone in the family knew that Asha and her father, Harold were a one of a kind duo. Asha took after her father in the sense that both were quiet and reserved. The times that really brought the duo to light was when they would play wrestle, Asha’s father recalls “It’s amazing these walls are still standing, the way we wrestle in this house.”
On February 14, 2000, Asha Degree went missing from her home. At approximately 3:45-4:15 a.m., two drivers recall seeing little Asha walking along N.C. 18 (the local highway), only one block away from her home. Where could Asha have possibly been going? Maybe Asha was following someone…
In the early mornings that Asha was seen walking, one man turned his car around, the rain was coming down heavily and it was hard to see because of all the fog. As this man approached Asha, she dashed into the dark woods and was never seen again…
A Mothers Loss
Her mother, Iquilla, who was a Godly woman and would do anything for her kids, went to wake both Asha and her brother around 6:30 a.m., to her surprise, Asha was not in bed. Her mother was surprised because Asha’s bed was slept in but not made, on any normal day you’d find that Asha’s bed was made as soon as she awoke.
Both children were off to bed at 8:00 p.m. the night before she went missing. Asha’s father recalls checking on his children after his 2nd shift around 12:30 a.m., both kids were fast asleep. Or were they? Harold checked on the kids once again before going to sleep himself and both seemed to be dreaming away…
Brother’s Tale of Sleep
O’Bryant remembers hearing his sisters bed squeaking, he didn’t think anything of it as he was a 10-year-old boy amid sleep, O’Bryant just assumed that his sister was tossing and turning. The truth was that Asha got out of bed and grabbed her belongings, crept away and locked the door behind her.
According to Family
On the outside and according to her family and close friends, Asha was an awesome, religious, and timid girl, but was Asha suppressing something? Asha was afraid of most things, her aunt Patricia said, “She doesn’t even open the front door for me without getting her mother’s permission,” Timid girls are not usually the ones to leave their homes.
Iquilla told her husband, on the morning of not only Valentine’s Day, but their anniversary that she could not find Asha anywhere, instead of panicking he suggested that Asha may have been at a relative’s house or somewhere nearby. Iquilla called everyone she knew, unfortunately there was no sign of Asha.
Nothing but sheer panic is expected when a child goes missing, especially for a mother. After everyone confirmed that Asha was nowhere to be found, Iquilla stated, “That’s when I went into panic mode. I heard a car next door… I put shoes on and ran outside.” Iquilla’s mother quickly prompted her to call the police.
Dogs and Rainy Nights
By 6:40 a.m. police were on the scene with police dogs, but they couldn’t pick up Asha’s scent, making it very difficult for investigators. Iquilla now became frantic and woke the entire neighborhood by 7:00 a.m., she was screaming Asha’s name in hopes that her daughter would walk right up and say, “Here I am.” By the next morning a state-wide bulletin was put out for Asha, and an entire team was assembled to begin the search.
Searching High and Low
Volunteers and friends alike canceled their Valentine’s Day plans to help the Degree family search for their missing daughter. As the search went along, the dogs and police started to have a hard time tracking Asha’s scent due to the heavy rain fall, as the day went on, the police asked for assistance of a helicopter with infrared heat-detection equipment.
It wasn’t until two days after looking for Asha that any sign of her came up, a Mickey Mouse hair bow, candy wrappers, and a pencil were found in a chicken shed near where Asha was spotted running into the woods. Chief Cleveland County Sheriff’s Deputy Bob Roadcap said “It’s like she stepped off the face of the earth. Nobody has been able to place her beyond that spot,”
This was Planned, but Why?
By the looks of what Asha was wearing and the belongings she took with her, the FBI and State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) believe that this was a planned and prepared for departure. Yet, it doesn’t make sense, an FBI agent stated, “She’s not your typical runaway.” most children who run away are 12 years old, and there were no signs of a dysfunctional family or poor academic performance.
A year after Asha’s disappearance her bookbag was unearthed at a project off Highway 18 in Burke County, about 26 miles away from her home. It was wrapped in a plastic bag, the FBI took it to the lab for further testing, and the results have not yet been publicly shared. This was the last hard piece of evidence that has been found.
Leading into the Dark
Many leads have been given and all leads have turned out to be dead ends thus far. In 2004 a tip was given by an inmate in a county jail, police officers took this seriously and followed the instructions of the inmate’s letter, they dug up bones that turned out to be from an animal. Asha’s mother believes that this inmate was using her daughter’s disappearance to get out of the trouble he was in.
It’s been theorized that Asha was abducted after she left her home, it’s been 18 years since she disappeared and to this day no one knows where she went. The Degree family has kept her spirit and the search alive in the eyes of the public. They established a scholarship in her name and hold an annual walk near the area Asha was last seen.
Talking with The Media
In a 2013 interview with Jet, Iquilla Degree shared that her daughter’s disappearance was not covered enough by the media, unlike other missing children’s cases. Iquilla said she thought this was because Asha was black. “Missing white children get more attention. I don’t understand why, I know if you ask them they will say it’s not racial. Oh, really? I’m not going to argue because I have common sense.”
Photos of Asha
The Degrees have continued to live in the same house that Asha walked out of. As a family unit they will never stop searching or sharing about what happened to Asha, in their home you will find many real and age progressive photos of their sweet little girl. Asha’s mother said, “I fully expect her to walk through the door.”
Original Author Credit: Maria Gorces