Asha Degree was a nine-year old girl who went missing from her North Carolina home on Feb 14, 2000, and was never heard from again.
The case is startling for many reasons, the most disturbing aspect of it being that she appears to have willingly left her bedroom on a rainy night around 3 AM to go outside for a yet to be explained cause.
Asha had packed her black bookbag and Tweety purse with several items before leaving home, including a few pairs of shirts, overalls, jeans, her basketball uniform, a pair of shoes, her wallet, family photos and a house key. Where was a 9-year old girl going with these items in the middle of the night? The lack of answers is puzzling.
Around 4 AM, two separate drivers saw a little girl in white shirt and pants walking down Highway 18. One of the motorists became concerned how “strange [it was that] such a small child would be out by herself at that hour,” especially due to the fact there was a heavy pouring rainstorm that night. The driver tried to pull over to help the girl, but Asha seemed to have been upset by this and ran deep into the woods to avoid him.
When her parents awoke the next morning around 6 am, it was Valentine’s day and the couple’s anniversary. They found their daughter had disappeared without a trace.
This was a shock to them as Asha was a shy, reserved girl who was afraid of dogs and never acted wildly or unpredictably. By all accounts, her family was strict and disallowed computers in the home, and always made sure their kids did their homework on time. Asha was on her 4th grade basketball team, and had cried about losing a game a few days before her disappearance.
Police performed a search all over Asha’s neighbourhood the very same morning, but could not find anything until Feb 15, during which they discovered candy wrappers, a pencil, a marker and a Mickey Mouse hair bow in a shed close to the highway Asha had been seen walking down.
No other evidence was discovered until a year later in 2001, when Asha’s bookbag was dug up during construction work near Highway 18. The bag was wrapped in plastic, and had Asha’s name and phone number inside it. The FBI went on to DNA test the bag, but the results were kept secret. No evidence of Asha was ever found after this, though police did say she may have been seen getting into a green 1970s Lincoln or Ford on the night of her highway excursion.
The discovery of Asha’s buried backpack from the highway construction site was a bad sign, proof to many that someone had killed her. There are many theories about what happened to her, but few answers.
Some say Asha had left the home to prepare a Valentine’s + anniversary surprise for her parents. Some say her parents had done something to cause her to run away, or were involved in a more unnerving manner. Others believe a predator in Asha’s life lured her outside somehow, then kidnapped and killed her. Asha could have been a victim of a hit and run, with the rain washing away any evidence of her death on the highway. Or even more skin-crawling, somebody could have picked the girl up off of the road and kidnapped her that night.
There is no closure as of yet, but this is one of the most mysterious and frightening unsolved disappearance cases in recent American history. There must have been something deeply wrong in her life for a girl so young to go off alone on a stormy night without telling anyone, and then to vanish with no explanation. Wherever Asha may be, and to whomever may have abducted her, one can only say this: Her disappearance will never be forgotten.