CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — A new team from the FBI Headquarters is joining the investigation into the search for Cleveland County teenager Asha Degree, who vanished in 2000.
The girl disappeared from her Shelby home on Valentine's Day.
A team from the FBI joined the SBI and the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office Wednesday afternoon to talk about their specialized training in missing child cases.
Investigators are convinced Degree could still be alive.
A team of highly-trained agents will spend time in Cleveland County, the sheriff says, to answer their questions and cooperate with them. He believes they can bring Degree home.
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Early on sheriff's investigators said they believed the 9-year-old girl was abducted.
Ongoing investigations led to clues. They found her shoe and her backpack and then they released new new age progressed photos, even a car of interest, but all of these years later.
FBI agents said they are certain someone saw or heard something.
“I have knowledge of or information pertaining to the disappearance of Asha, information they have not shared with us before,” said John Strong, special agent in charge.
On Tuesday, the FBI brought their Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team to Cleveland County.
They are special profilers, analysts and agents specially trained at finding missing children.
"Asha's disappearance is not a cold case. It is an active case,” Sheriff Alan Norman, from the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office said.
They will interview and re-interview people looking for answers and searching for clues.
"I can tell you what the card team brings to the table is experience,” said Joshua Wilson of the FBI CARD Team.
In just the past year, the team started working long term missing children cases.
Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon asked how many of those children were found.
"Unfortunately, those cases are still ongoing so I can't comment on them,” Wilson said.
In Fallston, where Degree went to school and made friends, people hope this team can solve her case.
Some still remember the day she vanished.
"For them to find her after all these years that would be so awesome,” resident Shereka Thurman said.
New billboards are going up asking for help.
The Degree family asked for privacy, but Asha's mother said she is happy this special team is now working to find her daughter.
The FBI is offering $25,000 for information in the case.
The community and Sheriff's Office are offering an additional $20,000 reward.
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