Family of girl who disappeared 13 years ago works to keep case alive

SHELBY, N.C. — Thirteen years ago, a young girl vanished from her home in Shelby.

The disappearance of Asha Degree, who was 9 years old at the time, has been a mystery for years.

Every year, Asha's family walks to keep her case alive. Before the march on Thursday, Asha's mother said she never thought they would be doing the walk 13 years later. She thought Asha would be home by now.

They began with prayer in front of the home where Asha was last seen by her parents in February 2000.

Then, family and friends walked the mile and half they believe she walked. They stopped along Highway 18, the place where a trucker said he saw the 9-year-old walking at night.

No one has reported seeing her since.

Her backpack was discovered along Highway 18 near Morganton.

Her parents said they have not given up hope.

“We do still believe she is alive. We are looking for a person,” her mother, Iquilla Degree, said. “We are not looking for a corpse. We are looking for a person, walking and breathing."

Investigators released an age-progressed picture that shows what Asha would look like at age 19. She would be 22 years old now.

The FBI, which is investigating the case along with the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, is asking the public to report any information that could help find Asha. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100 or the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office at 704-484-4787.