A timeline establishing publicly known 

movements and events.

ASHA DEGREE

TIMELINE

Asha, a fourth-grader at Fallston Elementary School, rides the bus to school, and rides the bus home. [26]

Sheriff Dan Crawford said Asha and her 10-year-old brother O'Bryant stayed at home doing homework until their parents, Harold and Iquilla Degree, got home from work. Iquilla works at Kawai America Co. in Lincolnton and Harold works at PPG. Crawford said Harold normally works second shift, but worked first shift Thursday and Friday. [26​]

Thursday, February 10, 2000

Cleveland County Schools are off for the day. Crawford said Asha and O'Bryant stayed with their aunt, Kisha Degree, down the street during the day. [26] 

 

Both children had peewee basketball practice that afternoon at Fallston Elementary School, then came home afterward.Her coach, Chad Wilson, said that the practice was normal. "Asha was her usual fun-filled self," Wilson said. "She had a good practice.” [26]

Friday, February 11, 2000

Asha and her brother O’Bryant both have basketball games at Burn’s Middle School. The girls peewee team plays first. [26] 

 

Asha fouls out of a basketball game three minutes before it ended. Asha’s team loses the game, their first loss of the season. “She kept saying the referees cheated," said Mrs. Degree. [14] 

 

Asha's basketball coach Chad Wilson said he believes Asha was just upset about the loss of the game. "I don't think the referee was trying to single out Asha. Sometimes kids don't understand all the rules of the game. Bad calls are just part of the game," said Wilson. [14] 

 

Asha's parents said that Asha cried after the game. "All the girls were crying, not just Asha, and they had a good cry afterwards because it was the first loss," Coach Wilson said. "Just a few minutes later, she was up smiling and joking and having a good time.” [26] 

 

Asha complained that her leg hurt. Her mother said she told Asha that she really wasn't hurt and could go ahead and walk. Asha’s leg quickly “recovered” and she then played with the other girls. Asha and her mother sit and watch her brother O’Bryant’s basketball game. [26]

 

“I sat behind her for part of the boys' game, and tossed a towel over her head and joked with her. She didn't show any behavior or say anything that led me to believe she was unhappy. We joked like we normally do, and she was very happy when sitting with her mother." said Coach Wilson. [26]

 

The family went home after the games. [26]

 

Asha has a sleepover at her cousin’s house. Asha and her cousins stayed up late pretending they were dancers on "Soul Train" and watching "Showtime at the Apollo." [13]

Saturday, February 12, 2000

Sunday, February 13, 2000

11:00 AM

approximately

The family went to church at Macedonia Missionary Baptist church in Waco, North Carolina. [26

12:00 PM

approximately

The family goes to an aunt's house for lunch. [26

6:30 PM

approximately

Having not slept much at the slumber party the previous night, Asha takes a nap in the bedroom she shares with her brother. [7

8:30 PM

approximately

Asha wakes up due to a loud lighting storm. She comes into the den and watches TV with the rest of the family. [7]

Asha is reportedly wearing jeans and a purple and white t-shirt custom made for a family reunion with the text "Sun Degrees hot in Atlanta".  [22

9:00 PM

approximately

A car hits a power pole and knocks out power to some areas of Upper Cleveland County including Asha's home. [22]

Asha lounges on the couch. [22

Monday, February 14, 2000

12:00 AM

approximately

Asha’s father Harold tells her to go to bed in her room around midnight. [22]

12:30 AM

approximately

Power is restored to the area. [17]

2:30 AM

Harold retires to bed at 2:30 a.m [17] [19]

Approximately this time, O’Bryant sees Asha dressed in her white nightgown with red trim and a teddy bear on its front, get up and use the bathroom, and return to her bed. [17] [22]

 

Shortly afterward, O’bryant reports hearing her bed squeak and believes Asha is just tossing in her sleep. [17]

3:45 AM

approximately

Jeff Ruppe, a truck driver for Sundrop Bottling Co, sees young girl with a bookbag walking south on N.C. 18. [8] 

"I seen a little girl walking down the road with her book bag. She had on a little dress and white tennis shoes, and her hair was in pigtails. " [8] 

 

Ruppe finds this sight so odd that he turns his 10 wheeler truck around and drives back towards her. [8] 

 

"I went back, but she never did look up at me. She looked like she knew where she was going. She was walking at a pretty good pace." [8] 

 

Ruppe turns the truck around again and passes her for a third time as he resumes his normal route. [8] As he passes by a third time, he notices the girl "veering off the highway into the fog and darkness." [12]

The Shelby Star reports there is a sighting at 3:45 am. [26]

 

The Charlotte Observer reports Ruppe's sighting as "around 4 a.m". [8] 

4:15 AM

approximately

Roy Blanton Sr and his son Roy Jr were on a trucking run for Porter’s Transport Inc, heading north up N.C. 18 when they spotted someone walking south along the road. Concerned the person might get hit by a truck, Blanton used their CB radio to warn nearby truckers to be on the alert for the person by the road. [8] 

 

They worried she might get hit by a truck, so they used their CB radio to warn nearby truckers to be on the alert, Blanton said. [8] 

 

"It was a small figure wearing light-colored clothing, I thought it was a woman. I couldn't tell [if] it was a child. I thought that maybe it was a domestic-violence thing where a woman left the house and was out walking." Roy Blanton Sr [8]

The Shelby Star reports there is a sighting at 4:15 am. [26] 

 

The Charlotte Observer reports this sighting as "about 4:30 am".  [8} 

5:45 AM

Asha's mother Iquilla wakes up. [1] [19]

6:30 AM

The children’s alarm goes off. Iquilla goes to the bathroom to start the bath water for them. [1]

 

Iquilla opens the door to their shared bedroom. [1] [22] 

 

She calls O’Bryant’s name and sees O’Bryant come out from under the covers of his bed. O’Bryant was in the habit of sleeping underneath the covers. She does not see Asha in her bed. [1]

Iquilla checks besides O’Bryant’s bed because Asha would sometimes get up at night and lay there. Asha isn’t there either. Iquilla asks O’bryant where asha is and he says he doesn’t know. [1] 

Iquilla checks the couch, downstairs, the kitchen, every closet in the house and still doesn’t find her. Iquilla go to her room, throws on clothes and tells Harold about not being able to find Asha in the house. Iquilla checks the cars for Asha. Harold suggests that maybe Asha went to his mother’s home, who lives across the road. She called her sister in law Gladys and asked is Asha was there and she was not. [2] 

Unknown

Iquilla puts on shoes and runs outside. She calls her mother and her mother tells her to call the police. Iquilla tosses the phone to Harold, tells him to call the police and runs outside. Iquilla starts walking up and down the street screaming Asha’s name. [3] 

 

Gladys Degree, Asha's aunt starts searching. [22]

6:39 AM

Harold calls the police. [23] 

6:45 AM
approximately

The first police officer arrives at the Degree house. The Degrees recount what has happened. [4]

The Sheriff arrives and more officers arrive. They asked for photos. The Sheriff calls for a K-9 unit. [4] 

7:00 AM

“By 7 o’clock we had every cop in the county here. Every news reporter had shown up. Five or six local news channels were here. Local newspapers. By the time 7 o’clock came I was plastered all over the television.”

- Iquilla Degree, Asha's mother [5] 

 

8:00 AM

Volunteer searchers from fire departments and rescue squads from around the county started searching and combed the area by foot. [22] 

8:30 AM

Teams from the Sheriff's Office and K-9, Shelby Rescue, Upper Cleveland County, Cleveland, Boiling Springs K-9, Casar, Fallston, Oak Grove and Waco police and fire arrive to assist in the search. [24]

12:00 PM
approximately

A N.C. Highway Patrol helicopter from Salisbury arrives and searches the area. [22]

During his lunch break truck driver Jeff Ruppe hears about the missing girl on the news and calls law enforcement to report his sighting. [8]

2:00 PM

State Bureau of Investigation arrive, tape off porch and interview family members. [7] [22] 

 

Law enforcement will also interview clerks at convenience stores along Highway 18 and Asha's friends and staff at Fallston Elementary School over the next two days. [22] 

9:00 PM

Sheriff is reported as saying they have two reported sighting by two motorists who saw a girl who matches Asha's description on Highway 18 at 3:45 a.m. and 4:15 a.m. Crawford said the motorists did not call police until about 5 p.m. Monday, after seeing on television that the girl was considered missing. [26]

NIGHT

Police interviewed Mr. Degree, Mrs. Degree and O'Bryant again Monday night at the sheriff's office. [22] 

 

Searchers have to halt for the night due to darkness, but Crawford said that police patrols will continue to monitor the area.[22]

Tuesday, February 15, 2000

MORNING

Police ran a driver checkpoint Tuesday morning on Highway 18 near where the motorists saw a girl matching her description, but Crawford said police didn't find any clues from the checkpoint. [27] 

 

Crawford said detectives and agents from both the SBI and FBI are involved in the investigation, collecting hair samples and dental records from the house. Family members and teams of volunteer search and rescue professionals on horseback or with track dogs come to search. [27]

 

Rallie Turner and her daughter Debbie are asked by searchers on horseback to check their barn and three outbuildings.

 

Rallie and Debbie Turner enters an old barn in her backyard which normally houses discarded furniture and a Red Cub Farmall tractor. She finds a yellow hair bow, white Atlanta Olympics pencil, green marker, candy wrappers and a wallet sized photo of a young girl. [9] [10] [15] 

4:00 PM
approximately

A spotter plane from the State Bureau of Investigation, equipped with infrared equipment and heat sensors, also circled the area continuously Tuesday afternoon, but located nothing. [27]

 

A helicopter is also used in the air search. [27]

NIGHT

Family members continued to search past dark. [27]

Wednesday, February 16, 2000

MORNING

The Turners hand in the photo they found in the shed to police and inform them about the other items found. [12] The photo it is shown to Asha's family. Her family didn't recognize the girl. [9] 

 

The Turners do not turn in the other items to police because the Degrees did not recognize the photo and they assumed the other items must be unrelated. They keep the other items in a pile on the porch. [12] 

 

(Note: Early Charlottesville Observer articles say this happened Tuesday [8], later articles say this occurred Wednesday [12] )

 

Investigators have compiled all the details they have into a central database at the sheriff's office, using equipment provided by the FBI. All the interviews with the family, all the possibilities that have been checked are in one computer system. [26] 

 

Investigators passed out fliers, put out national bulletin, and continued a 25 square mile ground search. [8]

 

Police call off the air search but continued a 25 square mile ground search along with volunteers. Investigators buy Asha's exact sneaker brand and size as footprint reference and give out the shoe impression on copy paper to searchers. [8] [11] 

4:00 PM
approximately

Roy Blanton reports his sighting to sheriff’s deputies at their command post. [8]

 

Investigators bring back trucker witness Jeff Ruppe to point out where he saw her. Pointed to spot near a field owned by the Turners. Jeff Ruppe is given polygraph.[9]

MORNING

A member of the search party finds candy wrappers near the Turners outbuilding. When the searcher asked about it the Turners show them the other items they found and turn those items into police. Ashas parents recognized the other items as belonging to her. [9]

 

The ground search is refocused to primarily around the Turners' shed. [9]

Thursday, February 17, 2000

Thursday, August 2, 2001

"Terry Fleming... [was] cutting a new road through woods beside the highway, he uncovered a bag that looked strange to him, he said. He dodged the bag for several hours, going on with his work clearing trees and underbrush from the roadside forest.

 

"I noticed it for a while and didn't bother it," said Fleming."I go in and clean up areas all the time and never think about it, but this looked strange to me," he said.

 

At first, he said, "I thought something could be in it I didn't want to open up in the heat." But something kept drawing him back to it. He even used his 47,000-pound track hoe to maneuver the bag, thinking it should come open. It didn't.

 

He finally threw it over and opened it. A black and beige book bag was inside.

 

Fleming would not describe everything he found, but when he looked at the contents, he said, "It was strange enough that I didn't feel comfortable with it."

 

He said he tried to call someone about it then, "But I was under some power lines and my phone wouldn't go out."

 

He saw writing inside the book bag, copied it down on a piece of paper and took the paper home with him. He did not remove any of what he saw in the book bag.

He put his note aside that evening and made business calls. " [30]

A year and a half later... 

Friday, August 3, 2001

MORNING

Terry told his wife he was going to call the phone number he had copied down from the bookbag. When he showed the name and number to his wife, she said, "Oh, my God, Terry." She recognizes the name Asha from the news as a girl who had gone missing.  [30]

10:00 AM

Terry Fleming calls to report the items he discovered along the road to Burke County law enforcement. [31]

10:45 AM

approximately

The grading site where the bag was found is secured by police officers and detectives. [31] 

 

Cleveland County Sheriff's office is contacted by Burke County law enforcement. Burke and Cleveland county law enforcement along with FBI agents comb the grading site for further evidence. All evidence is sent to the FBI forensic lab in Quantico, VA. [29] 

Monday, August 13, 2001

Police confirm the backpack found belongs to Asha Degree. Sheriff Crawford says the plastic bags containing the backpack was not hers. Sheriff Crawford says new evidence has lead him to believe asha was abducted while leaving home. Crawford says clothing inside the bag was Asha's but not the clothing she was seen wearing when she walked down NC18. [20]

Monday, February 9, 2015 

The FBI announced that FBI agents, Cleveland County Sheriff's Office investigators, and State Bureau of Investigation agents were re-examining the case and re-interviewing witnesses and would be following up on any new leads they developed. [35]

 

Along with this the FBI offers up reward up to $25,000 for any information that leads to an arrest in Asha’s case and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children creates a new age progression of what Asha may look like. [35]

14 years later...

As a result of the re-examination the FBI and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office announce they have received information that someone matching Asha’s description may have been seen getting into a distinctive vehicle along North Carolina Highway 18 where she was last seen. [32] 

 

The vehicle is described as an early 1970’s Lincoln Mark IV or possibly a Ford Thunderbird, dark green, with rust around the wheel wells. [32]

 

"This vehicle is right now considered a vehicle of interest, and it was occupied two times on the day of her disappearance," Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said. "It had been discovered by leg work with by the sheriff office investigators along with the federal government." [33]

The new detail is due to a new witness who recently came forward. FBI Spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said, “They believe they may have seen someone matching Asha's description get into a distinctive vehicle the morning she was seen walking on Highway 18 in the Shelby area.” [34]

 

"The eyewitness we've done many interviews with, we've done our own investigative steps with that information,” Lynch adds. [34]

Wednesday, May 15, 2016

The Cleveland County Sheriff's Office released a Facebook video describing Asha Degree’s case then asking “everybody in the community for help with new possible clues on the case.”

 

“Our investigative team have discovered two items of interest that could possibly provide new leads about Asha’s disappearance. The first one is a library book. If you or someone you know had this Dr Seuss library book [McElligot’s Pool is shown on screen] around the time of Asha’s disappearance and lost track of it, call us. Library records do not go back to the year 2000.”

 

“The second item of interest is a t-shirt like this one [image shown]. It is a concert t-shirt from the New Kids on the Block band. They are a boy band that first became popular in the early 1980s. They are still performing today. If you had a T-shirt like this one or know someone who did at any point in time, please call us.” [36]

3 years later...

Tuesday, October 8, 2015 

 
CITATIONS

1. “I woke up on Feb. 14, 2000 at 5:45am. The alarm went off for my children to go to school at 6:30am. I went to the bathroom, two feet away from the door, to start the bath water because they could not take a bath the night before since we had a power outage. I opened their bedroom door. My son O’Bryant was under the covers, as he usually slept. I called his name and he jumped up, as usual. I realized that Asha was not in her bed.” - Iquilla Degree Jet Magazine Interview. April 9 2013.

2. “I looked beside his bed because sometimes she would get up at night and lay there. I asked him where she was. He didn’t know. I checked the couch. I checked downstairs. I checked the kitchen. I checked every closet in the house. I went in my room and put on clothes and told my husband, Harold, that Asha was not in the house. I checked our cars. She was not there. My husband said maybe she was in my mother-in-law’s home— she lives across the road. We called my sister-in-law’s house. She was not there.” - Iquilla Degree Jet Magazine InterviewApril 9 2013.

3. “That’s when I went into panic mode. I heard a car next door. I did not have shoes on. I put shoes on and ran outside. I called my mom and told her that Asha was not in the house. She told me to hang up and call the police. I threw the phone at Harold and went outside.” - Iquilla Degree Jet Magazine InterviewApril 9 2013.


4. “By 6:40 am the first police officer came and we started telling them what we woke up to. About 2-3 minutes later the Sheriff was here and more police officers were in the house. They asked for pictures. The Sheriff called for a K-9 unit but they could not find anything but my scent. By that time, every neighbor in my street was up because I was walking up and down the road screaming my child’s name.” - Iquilla Degree Jet Magazine Interview. April 9 2013.

5. Direct quote Jet Magazine InterviewApril 9 2013.

6. “Two motorists had spotted her that morning, at 3:30am and 4:15am.” - Iquilla Degree Jet Magazine Interview. 

April 9 2013.

7. Search for girl to pick back up, Aileen Soper, February 15 2000, Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 1. 

 

8. Concern grows as girl stays missing, Aileen Soper, February 17 2000,Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 6. 

 

9.  Girl’s family finds hope as search is narrowed, Aileen Soper, February 18 2000, Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 10. 

 

10. Mood gloomier in search for girl, 9, Karen Cimino, February 19 2000, Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 16. 

11. Hopes cry in search for child Peter St. Onge, Cristina C. Breen, and Karen Cimino, February 20 2000, Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 19. 

 

12. Girl’s vanishing haunts Shelby, Joe Depriest, February 24 2000, Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 26. 

 

13. ‘A soft-hearted child’, Aileen Soper, February 28 2000, Charlotte Observer. Document. Pg 30. 

 

14. Plea goes nationwide, Heather Barr, March 15 2000, The Shelby Star

 

15. Items found, but still no Asha, Andrew Dys, February 18 2000, The Shelby Star.


 

16. Searchers comb area near where items found, Heather Barr, February 18 2000,  The Shelby Star.

 

17. Rain or not, the search goes on, Heather Barr, February 19 2000, The Shelby Star.


 

18. A family's pain, Bruce Buchanan, February 26 2000, The Shelby Star.

 

19. Asha's picture goes on national TV, Shana Bretzius, February 26 2000, The Shelby Star.

 

20. Sheriff confirms items belonged to missing girl, Christina Correll, August 13 2001, The Gaffney Ledger.

21. Items may be linked to missing girl, 9, August 7 2001, Morning Star. 

 

22. 9 year old girl, Andrew Dys, February 15 2000. The Shelby Star. 

 

23. 911 transcript, February 15 2000. The Shelby Star.   

 

24. Family and friends pray for girl's safe return, Heather Barr, February 15 2000. The Shelby Star.   

 

25. Town rallies around missing nine-year-old, Andrew Dys, February 16 2000. The Shelby Star.  

 

26. Authorities try to determine why Asha would run away, Andrew Dys, February 17 2000. The Shelby Star.   

 

27. Girl still missing, Andrew Dys,  February 16 2000. The Shelby Star.   

22. 9 year old girl, Andrew Dys, February 15 2000. The Shelby Star. 

 

23. 911 transcript, February 15 2000. The Shelby Star.   

 

24. Family and friends pray for girl's safe return, Heather Barr, February 15 2000. The Shelby Star.   

 

25. Town rallies around missing nine-year-old, Andrew Dys, February 16 2000. The Shelby Star.  

 

26. Authorities try to determine why Asha would run away, Andrew Dys, February 17 2000. The Shelby Star.   

 

27. Girl still missing, Andrew Dys,  February 16 2000. The Shelby Star.