Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman believes that advancements in technology could provide answers to the disappearance of Asha Degree, who went missing 24 years ago at the age of 9. He stated that the case is not considered cold and revealed that new evidence has been collected in the past two years. The sheriff encouraged anyone with information about Asha’s disappearance to come forward and offered a $45,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts. Investigators have partnered with the FBI and released details about a possible vehicle involved in her disappearance.
As the somber anniversary of Asha Degree’s disappearance approaches, Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman remains determined to solve the mystery surrounding her case. Despite it being 24 years since she vanished, Norman does not classify it as a cold case, stating that there is movement and new evidence in the investigation. The sheriff believes that advancements in technology provide investigators with more tools than ever to solve the case.
Asha Degree was 9 years old when she disappeared after leaving her home in Fallston, North Carolina, before dawn on February 14, 2000. A truck driver reported seeing her walking on N.C. 18 toward Shelby at around 3:15 a.m. She was reported missing at 6 a.m. the same day. The physical search for Asha was called off on February 23, 2000.
Over the years, law enforcement has made efforts to generate leads and gather information about her disappearance. In 2001, Asha’s backpack was found buried along N.C. 18 in Burke County. In 2014, investigators believed they had a suspect, but it led to another dead end. The FBI and Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office released details in 2016 about a vehicle that Asha may have gotten into on the night she disappeared, describing it as an early 1970s Lincoln Mark IV or a Ford Thunderbird, dark green, with rust around the wheel wells.
In 2017, a joint effort among the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team was initiated to generate new leads. In 2018, the Sheriff’s Office released a video reviewing the Degree case and asking for information about new items of interest found by the FBI child abduction team, including a Dr. Seuss book and a New Kids on the Block concert T-shirt.
In 2020, the FBI released an updated photo of what Asha Degree may look like today, and later that year, a prison inmate named Marcus Mellon claimed to know how the child was killed and where she could be found. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, investigators were delayed in interviewing Mellon and ultimately determined that his claims did not have merit.
Sheriff Norman pleads with anyone who may have information about Asha Degree’s disappearance to come forward, offering a $45,000 reward for information leading to finding her. He believes that there is someone in greater Cleveland County who knows where Asha is and urges them to bring closure to her family by coming forward. The contact number for tips is 704-484-4832.