Search continues for missing Shelby girl 16 years later

Search continues for missing Shelby girl 16 years later

SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - Sunday marked 16 years since 9-year-old Asha Degree went missing from her Cleveland County home. the FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for information in the case. A community group is offering an additional $20,000 reward.

For the past 15 years, her family has retraced the steps they believe she took before she disappeared on February 14, 2000.

Asha's family last saw her asleep in her bedroom around 2:30 a.m. "An hour and a half later, she was seen by drivers walking along North Carolina Highway 18 in Shelby," FBI officials say.

A year later, Asha's backpack was found buried along Highway 18 in Burke County, according to FBI officials.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released an age progression picture of what Asha could look like today, at age 25.

Nobody knows why Asha left her home in 2000, but her family says they haven't given up hope that they will be reunited with Asha someday. "Continue to pray for us because we do believe that she is still alive. We're still looking for a person to walk in and we know that one day we will see her again," Asha's mother Iquilla Degree said last year.

After 15 years, Asha Degree's family walks with hope of return

Anyone with information is asked to call FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100 or the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office at 704-484-4822.

The FBI, Cleveland County Sheriff's Office and the SBI are conducting a joint investigation.

Copyright 2016 WBTV. All rights reserved.