Monday, June 19, 2017

Mystery Monday: Asha Degree

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



On a night when the moon gazed down like an evil eye, the young prince appeared in Jemmy's chamber.
"Boy! Tumble out of bed. I need a manservant."
Jemmy saw that the prince was wearing a black cloak and carrying a wicker basket the size of a sea chest. "What you up to now! Walkin' in your royal sleep, are you!" 
 "I'm running away."
--The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman


The above excerpt is from a Newbery-winning book read in many elementary schools. In the story, a bored prince asks a young boy to run away with him to be his manservant. Asha Degree's fourth-grade class was reading this book just before she mysteriously left her home in the early morning hours on February 14, 2000. She was nine years old.



Asha Jaquilla Degree lived in Shelby, North Carolina with two very protective parents. They carefully focused their family life on church, school, and their extended family. On February 13, after spending time at church and with relatives, Asha and her brother went to bed around 8 p.m. They shared a room.



At approximately 12:30 a.m., Asha's father returned home from work. He checked in on the two children and confirmed they were both in bed. At around 2:30 a.m., he checked on them again and they were both still in bed.



Soon after, Asha's brother says he heard her bed squeak. He assumed she was just changing positions and went back to sleep. But at 5:45 a.m., their mom got up to wake them and found Asha's bed was empty. She was nowhere to be found.



Later, witnesses reported seeing Asha walking on Highway 18 wearing a white T-shirt and white pants. Another driver reported seeing her at 4 a.m. and found it odd someone so young would be walking alone...in a heavy downpour. He turned his car around but she ran into the woods and was never seen again.



After an extensive search, some signs of Asha were found in a shed near a local business not far from where she'd been spotted running into the woods. Searchers found candy wrappers, a pencil, a marker, and a hair bow shaped like Mickey Mouse. All were identified as Asha's.



In August 2001, Asha's book bag was found 26 miles north of the town where she lived. It contained several sets of clothes, including her basketball uniform, as well as some photos of her family. It is believed that she packed the bag herself and snuck out of the house in the rain that morning...but why?


Why would a nine-year-old girl leave a house on her own? Was she acting out what she'd read in The Whipping Boy? Or did someone convince her to leave and meet them that morning?

41 comments:

  1. Mysteries are even sadder when a child disappears. Sounds like she planned to run away, like many kids do, but something terrible happened to her.

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    1. That's what I think. I even wondered if she wandered back to the road and was hit by a car, but that doesn't seem likely. It just astounds me that there are so many bad people out there who would harm an innocent child, so I always try to look for an "accidental" explanation. One theory is that she fell into a pool in the area and the family covered the death to avoid liability.

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  2. I wonder, can't help it, if she was sexually abused by her dad and she wanted to leave? Even if she wasn't sexually abused, it seems she wanted to leave her home because she found it too restrictive. She either just let all on her own or, which I think may have happened, she was coaxed to leave to what she thought would be better and the person or persons, ended up taking her to who knows where. Or she left, waited in that area and went with the person(s) and the. Was killed. She obviously wanted to leave but she couldn't get far all on her own so she had to have help once she was out of the house.

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    1. From what I understand, they looked very closely at both of the parents and found no responsibility there...but that doesn't mean there wasn't a reason she left home that morning. Very good point!

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  3. I wonder if she was being abused at home or if, indeed, she and a friend were acting out the story being read at school. Was the family investigated?

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    1. Yes, pretty heavily...and cleared. Of course, that doesn't mean she didn't run away because of some abuse situation and someone outside that house harmed her.

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  4. How devastating. My daughter was upset because I wouldn't let her do something(can't remember what it was) She packed her little suitcase and was going to run away to her friends house across the street. Kids are very impressionable. But to go that far away from a secure, safe home is strange and sad.

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    1. Didn't we all have that dream when we were kids? "I'm going to run away. That'll show them!" That could have been the case...although it was surprising she chose to leave when it was raining fairly heavily.

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  5. Like the others who have commented above, I'm wondering if she was in fact acting out the book her class was reading. Often acting out a scene in book is fun, but it can also go too far, depending what it is you are acting out. And if she was in fact acting out what was in the quote above, then it can be taken to an extreme.

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    1. A lot of people do believe she may have been acting out the story. Although some have said that it was just something they were reading in school, not something she was really into personally.

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  6. This one is very confusing - with a myriad of possible explanations. Very sad.

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    1. I agree. This is one of the most haunting missing persons cases I've ever heard...and I've heard a LOT of missing persons cases. I've never been able to shake this one.

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  7. After reading about the "checks" by her dad, my mind wandered into the same conclusion as Birgit, but it is possible that she left on her own. As a kid, I was always going into the woods by myself behind our house (during the day), hoping to find a secret portal to Narnia. I never packed any clothes though.

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    1. Interesting! It sounds like you may have some insight into what was going through her mind, since you were always wandering as a child, too. I know I had my fantasies, but I lacked the adventurous spirit that would have had me exploring.

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  8. I wondered, too, about the checking of the kids again iin the middle of the night, but maybe he didn't go to bed till 2:30 am since he worked the night shift. I can never come home and go right to bed. Sadly, she might have been just full of imagination and decided to run away. Sounds like she was very sheltered in life and would have had no clue what she was in for or what running away entailed. Probably ran into trouble or died deep in the woods somewhere.

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    1. I have to wonder if her father checked on her twice for a reason. Maybe he had a reason to worry that he hasn't disclosed?

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  9. You never know what actually goes on in the middle of a family. That is a very strange story that obviously has some pieces missing.

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    1. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the police withhold some information that could really help us put it together. Of course, us putting it together isn't their first priority!

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  10. That is weird. So many answers are possible. But if she packed the bag herself and left she either had plans of where to go, or else the story intrigued her to leaving. Was she an imaginative child who liked to try new things? I think at that age I would have been scared to take off on my own.

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    1. I would have been, too--especially in the dark AND in the rain! That's why a lot of people think that someone had asked her to meet up somewhere.

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  11. If I saw a child walking outside in the middle of the night, you'd better believe I'd call the police.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Me, too. And I'm pretty sure everyone had a cell phone in 2000. Even if she disappeared in the woods, I would have called.

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  12. So sad. I wonder what happened to her and why she ran away.

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  13. That's so sad! What an odd series of events--it definitely makes me wonder. While I worry about her, my heart goes out to her family. That's so difficult not knowing!

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  14. I lean toward she was acting out the fantasy.
    What do you think?
    Poor little girl.

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  15. Hi Stephanie - what a very strange story - obviously thought about it as a 9 year old would ... parents not implicated - it does sound like book might have influenced her and someone else - perhaps from the community or church - someone she respected and agreed to go with ...for a child's purpose. Sad ending ... desperate - gosh you do find some strange unnerving tales without answers ... cheers Hilary

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  16. Oh, so sad! I wonder what happened to her. I'd rather hope it was some kind of accident in the woods, rather than someone snatching her. Either way, a tragedy.

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  17. I agree with Birgit. Dad checks on her at 12 and 2. That brought up flags for me. Wherever she is I hope its a better place.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  18. That is the nightmare. I am so frightened just thinking of this. 17 years ago. Where is she?

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  19. I am inclined to think she didn't wander out on her own. As a mother myself with two young children, the dark scares them. Some greater force would have to rouse them and remove them from the home. What a sad mystery.

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  20. Kids threaten, and do, try to run away from home sometimes. Could be issues at home, could be just childhood rebellion. It's hard to tell from the information here. Whatever became of her, hopefully, like someone said above, it was an accident. Someone probably still covered it up, but the idea that someone willfully lured her away is too awful.

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  21. What a haunting story. As a mom, things like this scare the heck out of me.

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  22. Those poor parents. I can't imagine what they went through, searching for their little girl, finding signs and then nothing. The backpack being abandoned says to me she's probably dead.

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  23. This is super scary to read about, partly because as a kid I made two attempts to run away. Both came after an argument with my mom. Both were attempts that I finished before I went too far. I think I made it maybe a 1/4 of a mile the first time - at the age of 7. The second time, I cut off my hair to disguise myself and then ... looked in the mirror and felt like an idiot. I was 10.
    Kids can and do things that their parents would never expect and for reasons that no one would expect. The first time I tried to run away, I was angry over the way my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother were treating my grandfather's things just three months after his death.
    At 10, I wanted to quit the soccer team because I didn't like the coach and my mom said she would make me go. I barricaded myself in my room and then started on my hair with a pair of scissors. Neither one of those incidences truly fits any "trouble in the home" kind of definition - other than that my mom could yell pretty loudly and my temper matched hers but I had a tendency towards action over verbalization at a younger age. Thank God, I decided against actually running away both times.

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  24. This is so sad! I wonder what happened! Why didn't anyone call for help? Weird!

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  25. Sad, freaky, and intriguing. It sounds like something out of Supernatural. But there it is, real. Crazy.

    But it does happen. Children get lured away. The alone part, that's much stranger.

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  26. Oh that is absolutely heartbreaking. I can't imagine the anguish of the parents. To live without knowing what happened to your child must be devastating.

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  27. That is a strange mystery, but one that doesn't really seem to point to murder so maybe one day an adult Asha will reveal herself.

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  28. This makes me feel like a crappy parent. I only woke up to check on my children when they were ill.

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