SHELBY, N.C. — The FBI says it will use a special team that investigates missing children to try and figure out what happened to a North Carolina girl missing for 17 years.

Asha Degree was 9 years old when she vanished in the middle of the night from her Shelby home in February 2000.

Charlotte FBI Special Agent John Strong told reporters agents from the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team will interview people who were talked to before. They will work under the assumption Degree is still alive.

Degree’s backpack was found buried on the side of state Highway 18 in Burke County about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from where she was last seen by a driver walking on the side of the road a year after she disappeared.

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