The location where Asha Degree went missing

Missing Person in Shelby, North Carolina

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The location where Asha Degree went missing

This is the location where 9-year-old Asha Degree went missing.

It is situated near the intersection of Highway 18 and Ridgedale Drive in Shelby, North Carolina.

Degree disappeared in the early hours of February 14th, 2000, after apparently sneaking out of her family home on Oakcrest Drive—a small, rural neighborhood that is 1.2 miles north of this location.

Her father, Harold, said that he last saw Asha at 2.30 a.m., when he checked on her and her 10-year-old brother, O'Bryant, before he retired to bed.

It is unclear why such a young girl would have left her home on a cold, rainy night with no coat and then walked along the side of a dark highway.

Asha Degree map
Degree left her home at some point after 2.30 a.m. and then walked one mile south. One witness reported seeing her north of the intersection between Highway 18 and Ridgedale Drive.

When a child makes a puzzling decision, we can usually question them afterwards and piece together their thought process. In this case, we are left with the difficult task of trying to dissect the rationale of a 9-year-old girl who is no longer around to explain herself.

It is difficult to fathom why she didn't retreat inside her home after she encountered the cold, wet weather. Perhaps she didn't intend on straying as far as she did, or maybe she misjudged the distance involved.

Understandably, there is skepticism about whether Asha really left her home in such a fashion. However, many key details in ongoing investigations are purposely withheld from the public. Therefore, it is difficult to look past the fact that both the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office and the FBI seem adamant that she left on her own accord.

Degree house
Asha lived in a rented duplex at 3404 Oakcrest Drive with her mother, Iquilla, her father, Harold, and her older brother, O'Bryant. Iquilla discovered that her daughter was missing at 6.30 a.m. There was no sign of forced entry. Sniffer dogs failed to find a promising scent. The Degree family no longer lives at this address. The property was last sold in 2017.

The official line is that Asha left her home at some point between 2.30 a.m. and 3.30 a.m. before walking southbound along Highway 18.

Highway 18 in Shelby, North Carolina
The highway has no sidewalks or streetlights.

Although the road in question is busy, it was dark, and the weather conditions would have impacted the visibility of passing motorists, many of whom were driving at a relatively fast speed.

It seems as though Asha continued south along the highway for 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers) before she was eventually spotted by a witness named Jeff Ruppe.

Ruppe said that he saw a young girl with a book bag walking down the road at around 3.30–4 a.m. She had pigtails and was wearing a small dress and white sneakers. Concerned, he turned around and tried to check on her. However, by the time he returned, she had left the road and was heading towards the woods. Ruppe commented that she was walking at a "pretty good pace" and that it looked as though she knew where she was going.

When Ruppe returned with investigators, he pointed out an area close to a field that was owned by Charles Turner.

Jeff Ruppe sighting
If Ruppe wasn't mistaken, then it means that Asha Degree was walking along this stretch of road when she veered off into the woods. Note that sources differ on this account. Some indicate that she walked off into the woods, while others state that she ran into them after becoming spooked by Ruppe's vehicle. This is just one of many inconsistencies in the publicly known facts surrounding Degree's case.

Other motorists also came forward to say that they saw the girl. While speaking to the "Inside the FBI" podcast, Cleveland County Sheriff's Office detective Tim Adams said that "some fairly credible witnesses" saw a young girl matching Asha's description walking along Highway 18.

One day after Asha's disappearance, a member of the Turner family found a number of items of interest in a large tool shed on their property.

Turner property
Property records show that the Turner family owns a sizable portion of land on both sides of Highway 18.

The items in question were a yellow Mickey Mouse hairbow, a 1996 Atlanta Olympics pencil, a marker, and a wallet-sized photograph of a young girl who was not Asha.

Turner family shed
These images of the Turner family's shed are from WCNC-TV, the Crack House Chronicles podcast, and the Shelby Star newspaper. The photograph in the bottom-left shows Debbie Turner pointing to where she found the items.

The authorities published the photograph in local newspapers. Asha's parents and local school officials did not recognize the girl.

Photograph of unidentified girl
A photograph of the girl. It is unknown whether the photo has any connection to the case. Debbie Turner runs an upholstery business that specializes in repairing couches and chairs. Therefore, it may have belonged to a customer. Interestingly, the police have not made any further public appeals about this photo since February 2000. This suggests that they may have identified the girl in question.

Although Asha's parents expressed their belief that the pencil and hairbow belonged to their daughter, it is unknown whether this was actually proven to be the case or not. The items were sent to an FBI laboratory for testing, but the results were never made public. Furthermore, law enforcement officials have not mentioned the items since they were initially discovered.

Debbie Turner Upholstery
This Google Street View image from March 2023 shows the shed from the roadside.

If they did belong to Asha, then it begs the question of whether she was actually in the shed that night or whether someone else dumped (or strategically placed) them there.

A second possible sighting occurred further south of this location, near the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 180.

Trucker Roy Blanton Sr. and his son Roy Jr. were driving northbound on Highway 18 when they saw a "small figure" in "light-colored clothing" walking in the opposite direction.

Roy Blanton sighting
The potential sighting took place at some point between 4.15 a.m. and 4.30 a.m., roughly half a mile south of the Turner property.

Blanton Sr. said that he initially believed that it was a woman who may have been out walking late at night due to a domestic incident. He could not tell if he saw a child.

He sent out a warning message over his CB radio because he was concerned that another truck might hit the person.

At roughly 6.30 a.m., Asha's mother, Iquilla, discovered that she was missing from her bedroom. After checking the couch, closets, cars, her sister-in-law's house, and her mother-in-law's house across the road, she directed her husband, Harold, to call the police. Meanwhile, she continued searching the neighborhood and shouting her daughter's name.

Harold called the police at 6.39 a.m. Within 20 minutes, dozens of officers had shown up.

The search for Asha Degree
The Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, search volunteers, and police officers from neighboring areas carried out an extensive 25-square-mile grid search around Highway 18. A helicopter and an SBI spotter plane equipped with infrared equipment were also used.

The sniffer dogs did not find Asha's scent. According to law enforcement, this may have been due to the regular stream of passing vehicles on the highway.

A search of every home in the Degree family's neighborhood failed to turn up anything of note.

The possibility of a hit-and-run was ruled out, as volunteers who combed the side of Highway 18 found no indication that a collision had occurred. If a motorist did accidentally kill the young girl and cover up the incident, then it happened very quickly and in such a way that no trace evidence was left behind on the roadside.

Asha Degree's parents
Asha Degree's parents, Harold and Iquilla Degree, cooperated fully with the investigation and insisted on taking polygraph tests. They were also interviewed multiple times.

During the investigation, officers learned that the girl's book bag was missing from the house, along with a number of other personal items. In their opinion, this indicated that the Fallston Elementary student had been planning on leaving home that night.

The massive multi-agency search effort was eventually wound down after it exhausted all efforts to find Asha.

Initially, investigators focused on the possibility that the young girl had run away or that she had become lost and disoriented. However, that theory went out the window 17 months later, when Asha's book bag was discovered double-wrapped in black plastic bags off Highway 18, roughly 26 miles north of where she went missing.

This proved that she had fallen victim to foul play.

Asha Degree bookbag
The bag was discovered by construction workers who were clearing a wooded area for a driveway. Although we usually make it our mission to locate and publish places, we feel as though it would be irresponsible to pinpoint the exact spot where Asha's bag was found. This is information that the police are keen to withhold from the public, as it may be vital when assessing the veracity of a suspect's confession.

For obvious reasons, the police have remained tight-lipped about the exact contents of the bag. However, they did release information about two of the items that were found inside.

These items are notable because they did not belong to Asha.

The first item was a white and red "New Kids On The Block" shirt.

New Kids on the Block shirt
The buyer did not have to attend a New Kids On The Block concert, as these shirts were mass produced and sold at large department stores such as Walmart and Kmart from around 1990 onward. This is why the shirt says "Main Arena 7pm" instead of a specific city or venue.

The second item found inside the backpack was the children's book McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss.

McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss
Note that the sample on the right was found online. It is not an actual photograph of the book that was in Asha's book bag. Various online sources estimate that the reading age of this book is 3–8, 5–6, 4–7, or 5–9.

Investigators determined that the book had been checked out of the library at Asha's elementary school. Frustratingly, the school did not have a history of who checked out books in 2000.

Although the police have not listed the full contents of the book bag, one officer noted that investigators were of the opinion that it contained items that a child would pack, not an adult.

In May 2016, the FBI announced that a girl matching Asha's description may have been seen getting into a dark green car near Highway 18. The vehicle in question had rust around the wheel wells and was believed to be an early 1970s Lincoln Mark IV or a Ford Thunderbird.

The vehicle that Asha may have gotten into
These are examples of the type of vehicle that may have picked up Asha Degree. A wheel well is the opening (or space) around the wheel. It is not the wheel itself.

It is unclear how viable this tip was, as it lay in the case files until officers began "re-investigating" the evidence with "fresh eyes" in 2015.

Rust on wheel well
These are examples of rust around a car's wheel well. Other sources state that there was rust around the rims (alloys). However, this is incorrect.

The current, prevailing theory among law enforcement is that Asha left her house for unknown reasons and was subsequently abducted.

If you look at solved cases involving children who went missing due to foul play, you will see that the perpetrator is almost always a relative, neighbor, or an opportunistic sexual predator who noticed the victim by themselves. Sometimes, they can be all of those things.

People often envision child abductors as creepy, unkempt weirdos who drive around in scary-looking vans. This is an unhelpful Hollywood stereotype, however, as past cases have shown us that kidnappers can be married with children and have no history of violent crime.

Furthermore, situational predators exist, and they can prey on any age group if the opportunity arises—especially if drugs or alcohol are involved.

Although many are skeptical that Asha left her home and wandered into the sights of such a man, history is full of victims who met the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such a coincidence may be the sole reason that this case has been so difficult to solve.

If the police are correct about the kidnapping theory, then it is the author's opinion that Asha was abducted by someone who was living in the general area.

This assertion is based on two facts. Firstly, the Dr. Seus book was traced back to her school library. Secondly, these kinds of predators prefer to operate in familiar places.

The book, along with the "New Kids On The Block" shirt, suggests that the offender may have children of his own.

It is the author's opinion that the offender wasn't 100% certain which items belonged to Asha and which items belonged to his own children. Consequently, he ended up throwing the shirt and book into the bag.

This would have been a very costly mistake if the school had kept proper records.

The use of plastic bags may have been his attempt to prevent fibers and other trace evidence from becoming embedded in the exterior of the bag.

If the abduction occurred after 2.30 a.m. on a Monday morning, then it stands to reason that he did not have a regular 9-5 job. There is also a good chance that alcohol was involved.

Asha may have known this man. He may have been a relative, a neighbor, or the father of one of her schoolmates.

In the days following Asha's disappearance, those who knew him would have noticed a stark change in his personality. He would have seemed stressed, short-tempered, and uninterested in his regular routine.

If he hasn't died from drugs, alcohol, misadventure, or suicide, then it is likely that he keeps abreast of developments in the case by regularly Googling for updates and other content relating to it.

Given what we know about such offenders, he may have even found this page before you did.

Asha Degree: Last seen location

The address and the GPS coordinates for this location are as follows:


Highway 18, Shelby, North Carolina, NC 28150, USA


To view directions on how to get there, you can use the Google Maps shortcut below:

Google Maps

GPS coordinates

The latitude and longitude coordinates for the highway are:

35.350011, -81.507344

Details about the general area

The highway lies to the north of Shelby.


Photos of the highway and other related images.

3404 Oakcrest Drive

3404 Oakcrest Drive

Image source: Bing Maps

The Degree family lived on the left side of this duplex at 3404 Oakcrest Drive.

It is unknown why she decided to leave home.

Coordinates: 35.362822, -81.508422

Google Maps

Debbie Turner's Upholstery

Debbie Turner's Upholstery

Image source: Google Maps

The shed is situated on the Turner property at 2053 Fallston Road.

Coordinates: 35.350049, -81.509324

Google Maps

Blanton sighting

Blanton sighting

Roy Blanton's sighting occurred near the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 180.

Coordinates: 35.341757, -81.506637

Google Maps

Fallston Elementary School

Fallston Elementary School

Asha Degree was attending fourth grade at Fallston Elementary School in Fallston.

Coordinates: 35.426476, -81.499694

Google Maps

Highway 18


Jeff Ruppe said that he saw a girl resembling Asha at this section of Highway 18.

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This location belongs to the following categories:

Missing PeopleUnsolved Cases

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