Into the Abyss #1: My Theories to What Happened to Asha Degree

 

Where are you Asha?

I’ve talked about Asha’s case before. For those of you who aren’t familar with her case:

  • On Valentine’s day, February 14, 2000- Asha went missing from Shelby, North Carolina, which was coincidentally the same day as her parent’s anniversary.
  • around 2:30 am– her Dad last saw her in bed, and around the same time her brother last heard her moving around in her bed/get up to go to the bathroom.
  • At 4 am- a witness saw a girl fitting Asha’s description walking along highway 18, a rural highway mainly occupied by truckers at that time of night. Of note: the weather wasn’t in any means close to a bearable condition, and Asha had no jacket. What I’ve read about the weather was that it was raining heavily and below freezing.
  • The next morning- her mother went to wake up Asha and her brother to get ready for school and found her missing from her bed.
  • A few days later- a few of her belongings, a hair bow and school supplies, were found in the doorway of a tool shed at Turner’s Upholstery . Of note: This business was around the area she was last seen at, and where a witness saw her run into the woods.
  • A year later- her book bag was found buried in a construction site double wrapped in trash bags. The site was located on the same highway in the opposite direction she was last seen.

Details about Case that are Noteworthy:

  • Her parents were immediately ruled out.
  • She was reading The Whipping Boy  in class, which is children’s fantasy book about running away to go on adventures. Way to go School System! 
  • She had just recently lost a basketball game and she was really upset about it.
  • There were items missing from her room. She left the house with a book bag packed. Items: two outfits (one more dressed up, maybe for Valentine’s day?), her basketball uniform, black shoes, a Tweety bird purse, a few family photos, and her house key and wallet.
  • Some of her relatives lived on the same street.
  • Asha was afraid of the dark and neighborhood dogs.
  • She didn’t have access to the internet and was very much sheltered.

Theory 1: What if she actually did leave on her own accord?

We will never know what she might have been thinking; although, her actions before poofing into thin air don’t fit with this assumption. However, it may have been a spur of the moment decision she made while she was laying in bed unable to fall back asleep. (Maybe started thinking about The Whipping Boy?).

circumstances that could suggest this:

  • The door was locked after she left- An opened door would point to abduction.
  • The route she took was the same as her bus- Although the road is the only route into town, most linked roads were residential.
  • She was reading a book about running away at the time- I was reading the Whipping boy in my class at the same time, which looking back is eerie. I remember thinking at 9 years old the book being borderline inappropriate. In my mind the book could easily be misinterpreted by children.
  • She was upset about losing her basketball game days prior- People make irrational decisions when they are upset, especially children. Her family may have said she got over her lost game hours later, but it was probably still on the forefront of her mind.
  • Clothing was missing from her room- In particular her basketball uniform, why this is significant to me is because of her being upset about losing her last game. Maybe she wasn’t able to sleep because she couldn’t stop thinking of that game [her brother heard that she was awake possibly tossing and turning. Maybe she never went back to bed?]. In her 9 year old mind state, maybe she decided to go practice at a basketball court nearby, (Since she was assumed to be following her bus route, maybe her bus passed a court close by?). Since she brought extra clothes maybe she decided to stay there until she considered herself good enough?
  • Could parent’s anniversary have any significance?- A thought is maybe she forgot about her families anniversary or forgot to get a present and ventured out to get one? She woke up and spur of the moment was like, “I’m going to do this, and they will be so surprised!” I remember determination being strong at that age, if the determination for a task was strong enough, it was easy to not think about the possible limitations.

Theory 2: She was coerced by someone to leave and meet them.

This is likely possible because of how her book bag was found. The fact that it was both buried and wrapped in trash bags suggest foul play and that her disappearance wasn’t voluntary, and if not, not completely voluntary.

My personal thoughts on why she would leave with someone is that it was likely someone she trusted. Sources I’ve read say she was closely monitored, but what about the people she’d be around when she wasn’t around her family (like bus drivers, schools staff/janitors, neighbors she passes walking to the bus stop [her brother could confirm that one], church members, friend’s parents, basketball coaches, etc.) Family would most certainly have their guard down around people they trusted (which is horrifying to think the family knows who did it and has no clue) like family or close family friends).

Also worth mentioning: was she allowed to answer the phone? I remember a case where a pedophile would call little girls to ask to take them shopping for gifts for their mother’s. I can’t remember the little girl’s name but can picture her face. Maybe this same thing happened to Asha?

(The case I’m mentioning here is the 1989 murder of Amy Mihaljevic .)

Circumstances that could suggest this:

  • Her brother remembers her being awake at a certain time- Although, it’s not consistent with her actions before bed if she were waiting for someone, unless that’s why she was waiting in the living room.
  • The items in her bag are interesting- (The fact of how many clothes and the family pictures). My thought on this was she was promised something from someone, like a sleepover, and what I personally think, that someone who knew of her lost basketball game promised to give her lessons to get better (her basketball uniform was packed). This person could be linked to her basketball game/team in some way. Saw her upset, maybe she left to go to the bathroom and the person talked to her on the way there. The person told her they would give her lessons and to pack a bag, told her what to bring, the clothing suggests it was to be a few days. “Oh and don’t tell your parents, it’s a surprise, they’ll be so happy when you win your next game”. The pictures indicate to me, the person maybe told her to bring them to make a collage or artwork out of them for her parents anniversary/Valentine’s present since she’ll have to miss it to have her ‘lessons’.
  • Her being on the highway in unbearable conditions without a jacket- My thought is she left in a car, because she didn’t bring a jacket. Maybe whoever was inappropriate with her on the way to wherever they were going, and she bolted from the car. Maybe the whole no jacket thing was because where she was going it wasn’t needed. My thought goes with the whole coercion with ‘basketball lessons’ theory I have. Maybe it’s a school staff member who coerced her with the promise of camping out in the school gym to practice? Since the next day was a school day, maybe the extra clothes were for school the next day?
  • The location of the book bag- The fact it was buried in the opposite direction and many miles distance away from where she was last seen.
  • The state of how the book bag was found- Highly suggests second-party involvement. Ever hear that if the killer knew their victim they cover them when they are disposed of? Would this also ably to the victim’s items? I also think it could have been planted to be found later, the killer likely wanted it to be found. It seems odd to bury something in an area that is undiggable without tools for the hell of it or for safe keeping. Some have suggested they buried them because it was risky to keep something with her name on it where they were living. This suggests they likely live with someone (roommate, wife/husband, family), and also that they don’t have kids (if they really wanted to keep the bag as a trophy, they couldn’t just put the bag in the attic hidden with their kids stuff. Think about it, if they have kids, a book bag along with everything else in storage wouldn’t seem so out of place). They definitely wanted to stir with the investigation by placing it there. Maybe the case wasn’t featured in the media for a while and they were getting a rise out of hearing about their own crime. Maybe the whole runaway theory took his responsibly for the crime away, he wanted people to know he did this without outing himself.

Theory 3: Maybe it was an inside job? (least likely)

The least likely, because the family was immediately ruled out as suspects, but think about it, this has happened in other cases. A child is accidentally killed and the parents/siblings/etc panic and quickly dispose of their remains in fear of it not seeming like an accident. They think irrationally and manically, like the police will never believe the whole “she bumped her head in the right place” story and “I’ll be going to prison and everybody will disown me for thinking I killed my own child/sibling”. The disposing of her and making it seem like she ran away seems like a better outcome then prison.

Circumstances that could suggest this:

  • Her front door was locked- Maybe she never made it out of the house in the first place. They really should have fingerprinted the door maybe? Dusted for footprints to see if she ever walked out the door. This theory would suggest the witnesses were mistaken. They reported it many hours after-the-fact and false reports like that can happen.
  • Family members were the last “confirmed” to have seen her- In particular her father and brother. If either did it, I’m sure it was accidental. Her brother did hear her shuffling around or something. Maybe she hit her head? Maybe the father (being the last conscious to have seen her) carried her from the couch to her bed, and accidentally hits her head on something. She passes out and he changes her into her pajamas and checks on her later? If it were a family member I’d think it were the father. Just because he was the last to see her, door was locked, had a car to dispose of evidence, last to be awake in the house, and I didn’t read anything about the wife remembering when he came to bed. Circumstantial only, not because I think he did anything. Usually the parents remain suspects for a while if something in the case seems fishy, so I wonder why they were immediately ruled out.
  • The state of how the book bag was found- (Pretty much same as in last theory.) The bag was concealed, possibly suggesting the person who buried it knew the victim. (Also could be conserving the bags contents.) If Asha was accidentally killed, they’d have to stage the run away theory by packing the bag (her favorite clothes were packed, information a parent would know), and making sure it was eventually found, so they’ll never be suspected.
  • The items found near the shed seem staged- Turner Upholstery is the first business on the route that has a long driveway where they could drive in and plant the items without being noticed.

Theory 4: She was abducted from her house.

(No evidence that points to this.) Maybe the abductor gave her directions, like to pack a bag (making it seem a runaway case, a 9 yr old though?).

The fact the door was locked after she left stumps me the most. It indicates she likely left on her own, unless someone ordered her to lock it, or she never left the house to begin with.

 

Whatever may have happened to Asha Degree, I hope her family gets some closure and some answers. Her 16 year old case is still getting media coverage with the latest being this May. They have interviewed a witness who may have seen her get into a 1970s model dark green Lincoln or Ford Thunderbird in the early morning hours near where she was last seen..

Wherever you are Asha, I hope you are one day found, hopefully safe, and that we will have answers to what happened that stormy night you left.

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