Authorities are trying to substantiate new information they’ve received in the case of Asha Degree, a 9-year-old girl who vanished from her Shelby home 13 years ago Thursday.
Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said Thursday that investigators are looking into the lead, to see if it’s anything that could move the case forward.
He wouldn’t comment on the nature of the information but said, “We’ll see how far it goes.”
A spokeswoman for the Charlotte office of the FBI, which also is actively involved in the case, said agents continue to ask the public for help.
Authorities say Asha left her home in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day in 2000.
Her family last saw her asleep in the bedroom of their Oakcrest Drive home north of Shelby at around 2:30 a.m. About 90 minutes later, a trucker spotted her walking along N.C. 18, a little more than a mile from home.
That was the last reported sighting of the girl.
Eighteen months later, in August 2001, a construction worker found a book bag buried along N.C. 18 about five miles south of Morganton, in Burke County – or about 20 miles from her home.
Investigators say several of Asha’s belongings were found in the bag.
Norman said a lead comes in from time to time, and investigators “give it as much attention as it needs.”
Shelley Lynch of the FBI office in Charlotte said agents “also get information occasionally. This is still an active case.”
Norman renewed a plea for the community to report “any and all information” about Asha’s disappearance, “and let us determine if it’s worthy.”
“Just because the case is 13 years old doesn’t mean it can’t be solved,” he said.
Lynch added, “It could be information that a person doesn’t think is significant, but it might actually be very important.”
The FBI made a major push for information a year ago, setting up billboards across the region, but there were no breakthroughs.
On Thursday, the government issued a drawing of what Asha might look like today, at age 22.
Asha’s family and friends planned a vigil Thursday along N.C. 18, at the spot where she was last seen.
“I think about her every day,” said Asha’s father, Harold Degree. “We have hope that she’ll come back someday. You’ve got to have hope.”
Authorities ask that anyone with information to contact the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office at 704-484-4787 or the FBI at 704-672-6100.