CLEVELAND COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - New details have been released by the FBI in the disappearance of a Cleveland County girl. Asha Degree went missing on February 14, 2000.
The 9-year-old may have gotten into a dark green vehicle on the morning of her disappearance. Someone matching Asha's description was seen getting into a car on Highway 18 around the area where she was last seen. The vehicle is being described as an early 1970s Lincoln Mark IV or a Ford Thunderbird with rust around the wheel wells.
"This vehicle is right now considered a vehicle of interest, and it was occupied two times on the day of her disappearance," Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said. "It had been discovered by leg work with by the sheriff office investigators along with the federal government."
Wednesday, the FBI released the new information to create awareness for National Missing Children's Day.
In 2000, the 9-year-old left her home in Shelby, NC in the middle of the night and disappeared. Her family says they saw her asleep in her bedroom around 2:30 a.m. An hour and a half later, she was reportedly seen by drivers walking along Highway 18. Her parents reported her missing by 6:30 a.m.
Over a year later, Asha's book bag was found buried along Highway 18 in Burke County.
Not far from where the search for Asha began, workers at the downtown community mart have her picture posted on a bulletin board. It's an attempt to keep the case on the minds of customers.
Cool Cycles shop owner Marcus Lineberger remembers a loud knock that he and other business owners got from investigators when the child went missing.
"It's a small town. You don't think stuff like that happens. People's consciousness should let them talk. They shouldn't have to be paid," Lineberger said.
So why has the new lead come after all this time?
Sheriff Norman said the new information was generated after a meeting of the joint task force that meets regularly regarding the girl's disappearance.
"It goes to show that this case is actively worked and will be worked until there is closure for the family and the community," Norman said.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Asha's disappearance.
Anyone with information about this missing girl should call FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100.