by: Ken Lemon Updated:
CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. - New information was uncovered Wednesday in a 16-year-old case from Cleveland County.
Asha Degree was 9 years old when she walked away from her family’s home in Fallston.
The FBI is now searching for a car that might have picked her up.
The car is a green 1970s model Lincoln Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird.
Authorities said she might have gotten into the car on Highway 18 near Shelby, where she was last seen by a trucker.
Whoever was inside might be the last known person to see her since she walked away from her Fallston home in 2000.
Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said his detectives have never stopped working on the case since the day Asha vanished.
A year after her parents reported her missing, a passerby found what what's believed to be her shoe and her backpack in a wooded area near Morganton, but searchers never found anything else.
"There is hope that we can bring closure to the family first, and the community," Norman said.
The FBI, the SBI and the Sheriff's Office last year launched a new effort to re-examine every piece of evidence in the case and interview every witness again.
FBI agents said the new tip came from that effort.
Neighbors of Asha’s family were happy about the new finding in the case.
“I'm very happy,” Lisa Carson said. “This has been a long time coming."
Carson hopes the new clue means that Asha will come home to her family.
"Something like that really doesn't happen in this town, and when it did it hurt a lot of people," Carson said. "It hurt me too my heart because I have a daughter about what Asha Degree would be her age now."
There is also fear in the community where Asha grew up.
"It's kind of scary, you know, because you don't want someone driving around who possibly picked up a child and they are just still out there, you know," business owner James Hutchins said.
Authorities are offering a combined $45,000 reward for information leading to Asha’s discovery.
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