SHELBY, N.C.,None — Eleven years after a 9-year-old Shelby girl vanished, her family holds on to hope that she’ll be found alive.
Asha Degree was last seen at about 4 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2000. Two motorists reported seeing her walking alongside N.C. 18, where a billboard featuring her photo now stands.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, Asha’s parents, Iquilla and Harold Degreem and other family members and friends take a walk on N.C. 18.
"I'm still expecting to see her walking in the door," Iquilla Degree told Channel 9's newspaper partner, the Shelby Star. "When everyone else says this child's dead, I don't feel it. If she was no longer alive, (God) would let me know."
Investigators have followed hundreds of leads in the case, but none have led to Asha.
Iquilla Degree said nothing appeared out of the ordinary the day before her daughter went missing. She went to church and spent time with her family, Degree said.
“Far as we knew, she was fine,” she said.
Degree said the power went out that Sunday night. When it kicked back on, she said she woke her husband, asked him to move the kerosene heater and went to bed.
“He ended up staying up till 2:30,” Degree said. “Then he came to bed. He shut their door, blew the candle out.”
Asha was in her bed, she said. Degree woke at 6:15 a.m., and her daughter was gone.
“That’s when the nightmare begins,” she said. “And the life I know now began.”
The story of Asha’s disappearance has been featured on multiple TV shows, including “America’s Most Wanted” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
The family never moved from their home on Oakcrest Drive in Shelby, and their phone number has not changed. Staying there could help Asha find them, Degree said.
“I can’t leave this home. This is the place she was raised,” Degree said.
The family will make their annual walk on Monday afternoon and invite anyone to join them 4 p.m. They will walk from their Oakcrest Drive home to the sign with Asha’s picture on it on Fallston Road
Previous Stories: September 9, 2010: 'Good Morning America' Profiles Local Girl's Disappearance February 26, 2010: Detectives Work New Leads In Missing Girl's Disappearance