Briefly, Thoughts on the Disappearance of Asha Degree

New Kids on the Block shirt not belonging to Asha Degree but found in her recovered backpack.

We are coming up on the twenty-second anniversary of the horrific disappearance of Asha Degree. (If you prefer a much more detailed write-up of the salient facts of this disappearance, here is a granular version.)

One might be inclined to believe this lovely child died from exposure to the elements the night of her mysterious disappearance, had her backpack not been discovered in such suspicious circumstances further along into the investigation. Searchers miss remains all the time, after all, sometimes by mere feet.

But the discovery of the child’s backpack hidden away, double-wrapped in trash bags, and with property inside it not belonging to Asha, raises serious red flags pointing to abduction. On the one hand, this scenario is even more horrific. On the other, it leaves open a thin hope that the child might have survived.

I have not seen any information indicating what DNA was gleaned from the backpack and its contents. But then that information was probably not released to the public. I would be particularly interested in knowing if Asha Degree’s DNA was found in that NKOTB shirt.

Perhaps the key to this mystery lies with that shirt. Which venue was it and was it the one nearest Asha’s hometown of Shelby, North Carolina? I have seen mention online that there were two concerts by the band in Atlanta on that tour and “the closest tour stop was Charlotte, NC on 08–09–1990.” This was obviously long before the disappearance of the child. But it might point to an abductor who himself had a child of a certain age circa 1990.

One wonders if ticket sales info (processed credit card transactions, pre-internet) was retained by the relevant ticketing firms for these concerts. Or if credit card companies keep archives of purchases going back that far. If so, a data scan could be done to try to correlate concert-goers with individuals familiar to the Degree family or near neighbors or school or church staff. This could be a promising avenue of investigation if this were indeed a matter of a known individual grooming the child before an abduction. I realize Asha attended a family reunion in Atlanta, so that is one potential avenue of investigation. But one would think the North Carolina venue is the likelier source of the shirt. And one suspects the pool of geographically proximate people would be much smaller for the North Carolina venue. But that’s a guess. I’m thinking the FBI was hoping a spouse or former spouse of the theoretical abductor (is he theoretical or do they have his DNA?) would see that shirt and be triggered.

Also, one wonders who might have a connection to the piece of land where the backpack was found. Did any of the unnamed persons of interest in this case have any tangential connection or was it on the work commute route for any P.O.I.s in this disappearance?

Lastly, the most troubling mote in the eye when looking at this case is the photo of the young black girl which Asha carried with her the night of her disappearance. Who is she? Was her photo used to lend support to a predator’s cover story told to the child? Did Asha believe she was running away to live with a new sister or someone she believed was her friend because a predator had been impersonating her and using her as a sort of imaginary pen pal to lure the child to him? One would hope this image has been up on billboards in both the Shelby and Atlanta areas.

This case might not be cold but it certainly doesn’t appear to be approaching resolution and one feels an ineffable grief when one tries to imagine what the parents must be living on a daily basis even after all these years.

Somebody other than the predator surely knows something or suspects something. Because that shirt points to the abductor having been a family man in the past. One hopes a spouse or ex who has suspected something all along will finally do the right thing. Or that if the police have a few serious persons of interest in this case, and do have DNA from that backpack, they will do some surreptitious harvesting of the same from those individuals as well as investigative genetic genealogy searches.

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