Scenarios: Asha Degree Disappearance 2–14–2000

On Valentine’s Day of this year, a mere ten days away, it will be twenty-two years since Asha Degree disappeared from Shelby, North Carolina in the middle of the night. All disappearances of human beings rankle in the soul and make us ask ourselves how such things can happen in today’s world where camera eyes are almost always upon us, where we have devices which track our every move and where we have all sorts of advanced means of search and recovery from wilderness specialists to drones to DNA. And new investigative tools like genetic genealogy have emerged to help in identifying and apprehending perpetrators.

Yet the combination of these advantages, this modern arsenal, has not yielded an answer in the case of Asha Degree. All disappearances disturb us and make us wish for the best possible outcome, but some cases disturb us at an even deeper level because of the mysterious nature of those vanishings. Asha Degree’s is one of those cases. She disappeared in a way that we do not expect children of her age to vanish. We don’t expect a nine-year-old to leave her home in the middle of a winter night, in a terrible storm, to wander down a highway and then suddenly veer off into wilderness and never be seen again.

I wanted to just do a brief series of scenarios because I see others going through the same sorts of mental gymnastics online which I do, trying to put together the pieces of this horrifying puzzle, the alleged facts. I apologize for any scenarios which might seem to cast doubt on the given stories of any of the principals in this case and I can honestly say I have no particular scenario which I find fits the preponderance of the evidence in this case. I am as baffled as everyone else by this disappearance. But I just wanted to see the scenarios laid down in black and white, almost like a flow chart saying “if this, then this…”

Maybe you will tell me what you think happened. I won’t rehash every detail of the disappearance here since you can easily read the Wikipedia entry or the granularly researched post on Reddit to which I linked in my last post below. I would obviously recommend the latter over the former if you want to read a timeline where someone has done a great job of removing so much of the misinformation which has been floating around the internet as facts in this case.


  1. Asha Degree voluntarily exits the house in the middle of the night in the rain wearing only minimal clothing: jeans, white shirt and white sneakers. She has her backpack but no coat. This points to the possibility that the child believes she would be meeting someone imminently, either someone who lived nearby who could offer shelter, or someone who she believed would be picking her up in a warm car or other vehicle. In either case, this could be someone known or someone new. Law enforcement believes the backpack had been prepared by Asha herself in preparation for running away (destination unknown).



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William Keckler

Writer, visual artist. Books include Sanskrit of the Body, which won in the U.S. National Poetry Series (Penguin).