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Feb 15 11 8:35 PM
Iquilla Degree holds her granddaughter Naobi Degree.Iquilla Degree holds a photo of Asha Degree at her home north of ShelbyO'Bryant Degree show his tattoo that spells out Asha. Jeff Melton/The Star
SHELBY — He had the name “Asha” tattooed on his upper right arm in capital letters.
A picture of Asha Degree with a ponytail and unforgettable smile was tattooed on his heart. O’Bryant Degree said that’s where his sister was.
It’s been 11 years since Degree saw his younger sister. She went missing the night of Feb. 14, 2000. He was 10 years old.
“The part that gets me is how she left and she didn’t tell me,” Degree said. “It’s the hardest thing to deal with.”
The sister who covered for him when he was getting into trouble was gone. The sister he played basketball with was gone. His only sister was gone.
“We did everything together, and we shared the same bedroom,” Degree said.
He said he doesn’t feel that Asha is dead.
‘That’s one more person’Iquilla Degree, Asha’s mom, said each year, someone always asks why the crowd is walking. And each year, she tells them.
“That’s one more person who knows, and it draws attention to her,” Iquilla Degree said.
O’Bryant Degree writes poetry to deal with his sister’s disappearance. He has a poem where he talks to his sister, asking why she didn’t tell him she was leaving.
“I can’t read the poems because halfway through reading, I break down and cry,” Iquilla Degree said.
The family usually makes a new shirt each year with Asha’s picture on it for the walks. Iquilla admitted the idea for a new shirt slipped her mind this year.
O’Bryant Degree didn’t forget.
He gave his parents black shirts covered in pictures of a smiling Asha. The shirts weren’t only for the walk, but they were a wedding anniversary gift.
‘I put the situation in God’s hands’
O’Bryant Degree has a girlfriend and a 1-year-old daughter. It’s unknown if Naobi will ever meet her aunt. For now, Naobi can see pictures of Asha layer the walls of the family’s house.
Asha wore a smile in each picture, whether in her basketball uniform or in a Sunday dress. The biggest picture in the room was a dusty portrait hung above the television. It was the same picture tattooed on Degree’s heart. It showed what Asha might’ve looked like at 13.
“I put the situation in God’s hands,” Degree said. “I look into the mirror, and I feel I’m looking in her eyes, not my own.”
The stories of Elizabeth Smart and Carlina White, who returned to their families after being kidnapped, give Degree hope that Asha may return.
His daughter’s middle name is Sol-Asha, a combination of his girlfriend’s father’s name and Asha. The name represents Degree’s struggle with Asha’s disappearance and his girlfriend’s father diagnosis with stage one Alzheimer’s disease.
“Her birth represented our greatest struggles,” O’Bryant said.
Blue and white lights flickered from Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office cars as family and friends joined together on Fallston Road Monday for the anniversary walk in Asha’s remembrance.
O’Bryant Degree led the front of the line in a shirt featuring a collage of Asha’s photos. She didn’t say a word.
To this day, he hasn’t missed a walk for his only sister.
Apr 2 11 8:20 AM
Every time I go somewhere that has missing persons' posters displayed, I stop to read them, see if there are any from our area and then offer a prayer that they be found. I am always thankful that I don't know anyone who is missing.
That has all changed.
My cousin is a 21-year-old college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. George DeLany was last seen March 12, 2011. He told his roommates he was going out for a few minutes and would be right back. He hasn't been seen or heard from since. The authorities are doing all they can. Fellow students are leading a social networking/media campaign. The area has been covered with flyers with his picture and information.
My aunt and uncle live in Maryland, which adds yet another dimension to the search.
Our family is scouring the Internet searching for every possible piece of information or available resources.
I have discovered that there are not many available for missing young adults.
KnappJason Knapp is a local college student who has been missing since April 12, 1998. It has been 13 years since he was last heard from. His circumstances are very similar to my cousin's. He went out for a quick errand. His car was found, but there was no sign of him.
If your child is under 17, an Amber Alert can be issued and immediately sent around the country. If they are between 18 and 21, "Suzanne's Law" comes into play. This law requires local authorities to notify the National Crime Information Center immediately if someone between the ages of 18 and 21 goes missing, instead of waiting the standard 24 hours. What if your child -- and yes, they are still a child -- is over 21 and missing? They are then treated as any other missing adult. And as an adult, being a missing person is not a crime. Adults can be missing if they so choose. They can leave work, ignore friends and family and just vanish. Because of this, authorities are limited in what they can do. Even if the person is found, authorities are not allowed to divulge any private information about the person without permission from that person.
According to the Pennsylvania State Police Missing Persons Unit, if they are over 21 and the disappearance seems out of norm for that person, or it looks as if they may have met ill fate, then authorities can proceed with the investigation. By this time, several days will have passed, and precious time has been lost.
More than 2,300 Americans go missing daily -- yes daily. About 2,000 of those are children. That is almost 840,000 missing Americans each year. There are 2,692 active missing persons in Pennsylvania as of Feb. 11, 2011, according to state police records. More than half are children, 479 are between 18 and 21, and the remaining 714 are 21 and older.
The majority of missing persons nationally and statewide are juveniles who run away. As the baby boomers age, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Alzheimer's patients who are reported missing. The next category is suspicious or unexplained circumstances. Of those who choose to go missing and stay missing, most of those are women who are seeking to escape abusive relationships. The good news is that very few missing adults are victims of foul play and most missing persons are found or returned home within a few days.
For those who remain missing, every time a story like Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard appears, the flame of hope is rekindled.
In my many hours spent searching the Internet lately, I have been sadly shocked at the number of missing college-age kids. So many of the circumstances have eerie similarities -- just like George and Jason. They tell their friends or roommates they have to go out and will be right back. They never return.
Very often it is several days before the parents are even aware their child is missing. The roommates wait a day or two in case their friend comes back before they call the parents. Most parents of college-age children do not get worried if they don't speak to their child daily. School gets hectic. Papers need to be written, tests taken, lives just get busy.
Even before they are born, we as parents want to do everything we possibly can to protect our children from anything that could cause them harm. The older they get, the harder it becomes. They want to stretch their wings. Become independent. And we have to let them. But it doesn't keep us from worrying -- if anything we worry more.
As my kids got old enough to drive themselves places, I always told them to call when they arrived and call when they were leaving. If I didn't hear from them in an appropriate period of time, I would call them. They thought I didn't trust them to be where they said they were going. I just wanted to make sure they arrived safely.
They used to grumble, but they did it to humor me.
They understand now.
Apr 20 11 6:34 PM
A young Tennessee woman named Holly Bobo was abducted Wednesday morning, last seen apparently being forced into the woods near her home by a man wearing camouflage. Despite extensive searches police have not found either Bobo or her abductor, and the case has garnered more publicity each day.
As with all high-profile missing persons' cases, tips and information about the crime come in from the public — including from alleged psychics. Because psychic powers have never been proven to exist (nor have they been useful in locating missing persons), police are cautious about using information from psychics, though they follow up on all credible information from any source. [Jaycee Dugard Abduction Highlights Failure of Psychics]
Here is a sampling of the psychic information that has been offered about Bobo, this one from various posts on an online psychic forum:
"The man who abducted Bobo is white with dark brown or salt and pepper hair, a full and shaggy moustache, and dark brown eyes. He is in his early 30's and around 5 ft 11 in weighing 210. He has nasty rash on his elbow. He is older than Bobo, a Scorpio, and the relative of Bobo's boyfriend, or the father of an ex-boyfriend. Bobo was abducted in a red truck with bales of hay in the back, and is being held and raped at his victimizer's home about 20 miles outside of Nashville, in a log cabin about 26-30 miles north of where she was abducted. Bobo's abductor makes lots of mistakes and will be captured within 5 days."
Another psychic offered this information:
"I first got a B name, like Bob. I feel West, and 7th, or just 7. A green truck. He may have had a weapon, a gun probably ... I also got the feeling that she may have casually met him somewhere but didn't really know him. Her abductor is scrawny, or medium build, blondish hair, little social skills, a country boy. He might have a bite mark on his hand. I feel that she may be alive and very scared, in a house. Something that sounds like Mango, then Mandarin. I have no idea what that means. ... Then I heard Robert/Bob but that still might be a name or sounding name. She may be held about 20 minutes away from where she was abducted, on the west side of Tennessee."
A Tarot-reading blogger who goes by the name of "Empathy" offered a lengthy (2,000-word)reading about Bobo on another website:"Places or people with name initials B or J might be useful. ... There may be a building over the other side of the water? It seems to me that there is a lack of faith or energy in finding Holly ... as though some people are actually not wanting to help find her, like there is no real effort here. The 10 of Wands [tarot card, suggests] that she could be found under 10 weeks ... 10 of wands is South but reversed it could be North. I see her inside or just outside the town near some buildings.The five of cups is upright so it shows a union with someone possibly either at a place with an M or W or name of person initials or something of that nature ..."
It's not clear what police (or anyone else) is supposed to do with this kind of information. According to Empathy's deck of tarot cards, Bobo's disappearance may or may not be connected with a person, place, or thing that has the initials B, J, M, or W, or any combination of those letters; there may or may not be some association with a building near a stream or lake or river; Bobo might be found either to the south, or north (of what?); she may be inside, or just outside of a town near some buildings; and so on. This information (unfortunately typical of psychics) is so vague and general as to be completely useless. Police and searchers need specific information that leads them to Bobo, not random associations.
Until and unless Bobo is recovered, there's no way to know if any of this information is correct, and some of it will likely be correct merely by chance. Her claim about the "lack of energy or effort" in searching for Bobo seems completely wrong, with hundreds of police and volunteer searchers looking for her, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently increasing the reward for information about Bobo to $75,000. If anything, Bobo's case is getting far more effort and attention than many other missing persons' cases.
Empathy, like almost all psychics who have given information on Bobo's case, is surely sincerely trying to assist and truly believes she can help locate the missing woman. There are thousands of self-proclaimed psychics who claim to be able to find missing persons, including TV personalities like Sylvia Browne, Allison DuBois, and Carla Baron. If they truly have the powers they claim, why aren't those psychics leading police to rescue these innocent victims within hours or days of their abductions?
It is possible that one or more of these psychics will turn out to be largely or completely correct about Bobo's abduction. The problem for police is that, even if some of this (often contradictory) information is correct (and some of it will be, by chance), it's impossible to know what's accurate and what's not. In abduction cases, every minute and hour may mean the difference between life and death, and police cannot afford the time and resources to pursue every wild, vague scrap of information from people whose psychic abilities have never been proven.
Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His Web site is www.RadfordBooks.com.
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