Asha Jaquilla Degree

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Top Two Rows and Bottom Left and Center: Asha, circa 2000;
Bottom Right: Age-progression to age 19 (circa 2009)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: February 14, 2000 from Shelby, North Carolina
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: August 5, 1990
  • Age: 9 years old
  • Height and Weight: 4'6, 60 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: African-American female. Black hair, brown eyes. Asha may style her hair in pigtails. Her name is pronounced "Ay-sha."
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: Possibly a white shirt, white jeans and white sneakers.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Asha resided with her family in an apartment on Oakcrest Street in Shelby, North Carolina in 2000. She was last seen inside her home at approximately 2:30 a.m. on February 14, 2000. Asha's father went to sleep at that time and told authorities his daughter was asleep in her bed when he checked on her. Asha shared a room with her older brother, who stated that he heard noises during the early morning hours and assumed his sister was tossing in her sleep. Asha's mother went into her room at approximately 6:30 a.m. to wake her children for school and discovered Asha was not in her bed. The family immediately summoned authorities and an extensive search of the surrounding area was initialized, with no result. Asha has never been heard from again.

    Two truck drivers reported seeing her walking south on Highway 18 north of Shelby between 3:30 and 4:15 a.m. Asha was apparently near the intersection of Highway 180 at the time, about a mile from her home. She left the highway at this point and walked off into the darkness. It was the last confirmed sighting of the child.

    Investigators believe Asha left her residence of her own accord. She is described as being quiet, shy person and a good student with a happy home life, and her reasons for leaving aren't clear. Asha's basketball team lost a game, their first loss in the season, the day before her disappearance. Her family said she was upset over the loss, but she calmed down within a few hours. Asha's fourth-grade class at Fallston Elementary School read the book The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman in February 2000. The book centers around the story of a prince and a commoner child who receives lashes on the royal's behalf. The children proceed to run away and the book details their adventures. Both boys return safely to the kingdom at the story's end. It is not known if the book served as a catalyst for Asha's disappearance.

    Asha's black book bag and black Tweety Bird purse were missing from her room after her disappearance, along with a pair of blue jeans with a red stripe, black sneakers, a long-sleeved white shirt with purple lettering, a red vest with black trim, black overalls with Tweety Bird on them, and a long-sleeved black and white shirt. All the doors to the house were found locked; Asha kept her house key in the bookbag.

    Asha's pencil, marker and Mickey Mouse hair bow were discovered on the ground in the doorway of a tool shed at Turner's Upholstery on Highway 18 on February 17, 2000, three days after her disappearance. Her belongings were found near the stretch of road where Asha was seen walking in the early morning hours of February 14. A search of the area failed to produce additional evidence. The items were discovered more than one mile from Asha's residence.

    A contractor uncovered Asha's book bag, which has her name and telephone number written on it, buried off Highway 18 in August 2001, 18 months after she disappeared. The item had been double-wrapped in black plastic trash bags and was found more than 26 miles from her family's home and in a different direction from where she'd been walking. Nearby some animal bones and a pair of men's khaki pants were found. The bag was sent to a federal laboratory for testing, but, citing the pending investigation, authorities never released the results. Unconfirmed reports state the bag contained Asha's name on a piece of paper, as well as clothing and a pencil case. In October of that year, a plastic trash bag similar to the one Asha's bookbag was wrapped in was found. The bag was sent to a police lab for analysis.

    Investigators announced that they considered Asha's disappearance to be a criminal matter and foul play was suspected after the bookbag's discovery. The surrounding area was thoroughly searched afterwards, but additional evidence was reportedly not located. A photo of some of Asha's personal items is posted below this case summary.

    In 2004, authorities dug at the corner of Shelby and Rube Spangler roads near Lawndale, South Carolina, looking for Asha's remains. They found some bones, but they turned out to be from animals. No evidence relating to Asha's case was located during the search. Her family still lives in the same house and has kept the same phone number over the years. Her case remains unsolved.

    Evidence
    Above: Evidence from Degree's disappearance

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Cleveland County Sheriff's Office
    704-484-4822

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    Source Information
    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
    Child Protection Education Of America
    The Shelby Star
    The Charlotte Observer
    North Carolina State Bureau Of Investigation
    Burke County Emergency Services
    Child Search Ministries
    The Gaston Gazette
    Unsolved in the News
    ABC News
    Find Our Missing

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    Updated 8 time since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated May 18, 2013; two pictures added, distinguishing characteristics and details of disappearance updated.

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