SHELBY, N.C. — Asha Degree, a shy 9-year-old girl from Shelby, North Carolina, disappeared in the middle of Valentine's Day night 22 years ago.
The fourth-grader's disappearance shook the rural community and remains a mystery today.
This week, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office reminded the community how the department's search will not stop until they locate Asha, whom they called "Cleveland County's Sweetheart."
"Over the years since she disappeared, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation have followed hundreds of leads and conducted hundreds of interviews," the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook. "Our goal has always been to uncover new information to help us find Asha. And we still need your help."
The department said it, along with the CCSO, the FBI and the SBI, will be contacting anyone and everyone who may have been in contact with Asha before she went missing.
"Even if you think you don't have information that is helpful, you may know something that could be a key to our case," the department wrote.
Investigators said Asha disappeared from her bedroom sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2000. There was no sign of forced entry and no promising scent trail for search dogs to follow. Investigators received at least two reports from people who said they saw a young female walking along Highway 18 around 4 a.m. One person said they went back to check on her, and the girl disappeared into the woods.
"After 20 years, I still believe my daughter is alive," Iquilla Degree, Asha's mother, said in 2020. "I do not believe she is dead. And I know someone knows something. I'm not crazy enough to think that a 9-year-old can disappear into thin air without somebody knowing something."
There is still a $45,000 award being offered for any information that may lead to finding her. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created an age-progressed photo, which shows Degree as she would look as a 31-year-old woman.
"We know our community cares deeply about Asha, help us bring her home," the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office wrote.
Anyone with information about Asha can call 704-672-6100.
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