SHELBY, N.C. - The FBI is stepping up efforts to solve a 17-year-old mystery in Cleveland County. What happened to 9-year-old Asha Degree?

The little girl vanished after leaving her home in Shelby back in February of 2000.

The FBI is now bringing in its Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team, known as CARD, to work full time on the case. The team is specially trained to work cases involving children who go missing..

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman believes the case can still be solved.

"Today, I can stand before you and say to you we have made progress," Norman said during a press conference in Shelby.

John Strong the Special Agent In Charge of the Charlotte FBI office said, "We have reason to believe that individuals in the community or the surrounding area have knowledge or information pertaining to the disappearance of Asha."

The CARD team is made up of agents, analysts and profilers who will take a fresh look at what happened to Asha, who was last seen by a couple of motorists as she was walking near her Shelby home in the middle of the night."

Joshua Wilson is the Supervisory Special Agent for the team, and he said the team will go back over the entire case.

"People's perceptions -- people remember things differently. So we are definitely conducting re-interviews with people who have been interviewed before," said Wilson.

There have been some leads in the case.

A year after she was last seen, some construction workers found her book bag where it had been buried some 20 miles from her home.

Recently investigators received information that the girl had been seen getting into either an early 1970s dark green Lincoln or Ford Thunderbird.

"We strongly believe that someone has information that can lead us to Asha," said Strong.

Anyone with information can call 1-800-CALL-FBI. The reward for information is now $45,000. If you have information, you can remain anonymous.