“Although Asha left her house 20 years ago, we treat it as if it happened yesterday,” said Jeanine Merritt, an FBI intelligence analyst who has worked the case since 2014, bringing reams of 20-year-old paperwork from disparate offices and investigations into a single searchable database. “We’re constantly accepting new leads. We’re constantly sifting through new data.”
There are few clues about why Asha left her house on Valentine’s Day, which is also her parents’ wedding anniversary. If she was upset about her poor performance at a basketball game the Saturday before her disappearance (she fouled out and her team lost by one point), it seemed to have dissipated by the next morning, when the family went together to church and Sunday school. Still, it was a crushing loss for Asha, her mom said, leading Iquilla, Harold, and investigators to wonder if it may have spurred the competitive, intelligent 9-year-old to hatch some unknown plan.
“Apparently, she packed her bag prior to leaving, but the contents—from what we can tell—looked like something a child would pack rather than her parents preparing her for an overnight stay,” Det. Adams said.
For Asha’s family, prayers and hope have sustained them for the last 20 years, but they need answers. Iquilla appealed directly to anyone who may have been involved in her daughter’s fate to come forward and unburden themselves.