Asha Jaquilla Degree (born August 5, 1990; first name pronounced AY-shuh) went missing at the age of nine from Shelby, North Carolina, United States. In the early morning hours of February 14, 2000, for reasons unknown, she packed her bookbag, left her family home north of the city and began walking along nearby North Carolina Highway 18 despite heavy rain and wind. Several passing motorists saw her; when one turned around at a point 1.3 miles (2.1 km) from her home and began to approach her, she left the roadside and ran into a wooded area. In the morning, her parents discovered her absence. No one has seen her since.
An intensive search that began that day led to the location of some of her personal effects near where she was last seen. A year and a half later, her bookbag, still packed, was unearthed from a construction site along Highway 18 north of Shelby in Morganton. At the point where she ran into the woods, a billboard now stands appealing for help finding her. Her family hosts an annual walk from their home to the billboard to draw attention to the case.
While the circumstances of Degree's disappearance at first seemed to suggest she was running away from home, investigators could not find a clear reason she might have done so, and she was younger than most children who do so. They have speculated that she might have been abducted instead. The case has drawn national media attention. In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined state and county authorities in a reopened investigation, offering a reward for information that could help solve the case.
Asha was last seen by her family sleeping in her bed at approximately 2:30 a.m. At 4:00 a.m., she was seen by motorists walking along North Carolina Highway 18 in Shelby, North Carolina. More than a year later, Asha's book bag was discovered...
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