BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The mother of a missing teen whose stepfather is a heavyweight with Ultimate Fighting Championship pleaded for information Thursday after rewards for information grew to $30,000.
Speaking in an interview with WBRC-TV, Angela Harris said “there has to be someone who knows” what happened to Aniah Haley Blanchard, 19.
“We have to have her back,” she said.
A social media message sent by Blanchard to her roommate indicated she might have been with a male before she disappeared, Harris said.
Husband Walt Harris, who fights with the mixed martial arts fighting organization, said relatives don’t understand what might have happened to the college student.
“There are just a lot of things that don’t add up for us as parents,” he said. “We just really, really want to know.”
The two spoke after the president of UFC, Dana White, tweeted a video saying he was offering a reward of $25,000.
The money is in addition to a $5,000 reward offered by the state of Alabama, where the college student was reported missing a week ago from the town of Auburn.
Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into her whereabouts and the reward is for information leading to a conviction.
The Southern Union State Community College student was last seen Oct. 24. Police later found her damaged car in Montgomery, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) away.
This post was originally published Oct. 31, 2019.
UPDATE: Nov. 7, 2019
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Authorities have identified an Alabama man who is wanted in connection with the disappearance of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris’s stepdaughter.
News outlets report a warrant for first-degree kidnapping was issued Thursday for 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard.
Auburn police released images of Yazeed inside a convenience store where Blanchard was last seen on Oct. 23.
Blanchard was reported missing the next day. Her car was later found abandoned over 50 miles (90 kilometers) away. Police said the car contained evidence that Blanchard had been harmed.
A reward of about $105,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
Alabama State Bureau of Investigation Captain Joe Herman told WSFA-TV that Yazeed was charged with attempted murder and kidnapping in February, but is out on bond. A judge revoked the bond Thursday.
UPDATE: Nov. 8, 2019
A man wanted in the disappearance of UFC fighter Walt Harris’ stepdaughter has been apprehended in Florida, but the whereabouts of the woman he’s accused of abducting remained a mystery Friday.
Ibraheem Yazeed was arrested and booked into the Escambia County Jail early Friday. Jail records show he’s being held as a fugitive after being charged in Alabama with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard. She was last seen at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama, on Oct. 23.
Blanchard, a student at Southern Union State Community College, was reported missing the next day. Her car was later found abandoned in Montgomery, more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away. Police said the car was damaged and contained evidence that Blanchard had been harmed.
“I am prayerful that the Lord touches this young man’s heart so he will be honest and truthful and tell the authorities where our daughter is located,” Blanchard’s stepmother, Yashiba Blanchard, told Al.com . “I feel as if the Lord has heard our cries and the community’s cries for help with finding our daughter.”
Yazeed, 29, was already known to authorities: He was freed from an Alabama jail in February after prosecutors said he beat a man unconscious and “near death” in a vicious robbery, court records show. He faces attempted murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery in that earlier case.
Prosecutors say Yazeed was armed with a handgun in January when he pummeled William Joseph Fuller, Alabama court records state. He and two other people also stole Fuller’s Rolex watch, rifle, handgun, wallet, bank card, and cash, authorities said.
Yazeed was out on bond at the time of Blanchard’s disappearance.
In Florida, U.S. marshals were already in the general area where Yazeed was when they called the Escambia Sheriff’s Office for assistance, Sheriff’s Maj. Andrew Hobbs said.
“I don’t know how they knew he was in the area — they got the tip and called us,” Hobbs said Friday.
He was taken into custody around 11 p.m. Thursday alongside the Pine Forest exit on Interstate 10, Hobbs said.
“When we arrived, the suspect fled the area, but he was located by Escambia sheriff’s officers and marshals in a wooded area near the exit,” Hobbs said.
Yazeed was wheeled from the scene on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. Video of the arrest from WEAR-TV shows Yazeed yelling as he’s being taken away.
His jail booking photo shows him with a swollen left eye.
“The marshals were the ones who handcuffed him and took him into custody; you’d have to contact them about any injuries he received,” Hobbs said.
The Associated Press’ request for information left with the Pensacola office of the U.S. Marshals Service wasn’t immediately returned early Friday.
Yazeed’s run-ins with Alabama law enforcers date back almost a decade.
In 2012, he was accused of ramming his vehicle into a Montgomery police car at a Chevron station and charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer. He was fleeing from the two Montgomery officers at the time and plowed into the squad car “as the officers exited their vehicle in an attempt to kill the officers,” a court affidavit states.
Yazeed’s mother wrote the judge handling that case, saying “he felt afraid and didn’t know how to handle or control the vehicle due to so many fired gunshots towards the vehicle.”
Yazeed spent months in the county jail before a grand jury determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
“I believe he is suffering some type of mental disorder,” his mother also wrote in the letter. She said her son suffered a head injury as a child and didn’t always use good judgment.
Yazeed also wrote the court, pleading for his release. He said it would alleviate jail overcrowding and “and save taxpayers a lot of money.”
UPDATE (Nov. 25, 2019): AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama district attorney said Monday that authorities have “good reason” to believe human remains found belong to the missing stepdaughter of a UFC heavyweight fighter.
The remains were found on a county road in neighboring Macon County, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes told The Associated Press.
“I can confirm that human remains have been found in Macon County on County Road 2 and we have good reason to believe they are that of Aniah Blanchard,” Hughes said.
Police have arrested two people in the disappearance last month of Blanchard, 19. She was last seen Oct. 23 in Auburn. Her stepfather is UFC fighter Walt Harris.
After she disappeared, her black Honda CRV was found abandoned more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away at an apartment complex in Montgomery, Alabama. Auburn police detective Josh Mixon said Blanchard’s blood was found in the car and it appeared she had suffered a life-threatening injury.
Mixon testified that convenience store video footage showed a man buying a beverage look over at Blanchard. He said tipsters later identified the man as Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, and a man at the store told investigators he saw Yazeed force Blanchard into her car and drive away.
Police have arrested Yazeed and a second man, 35-year-old Antwain Shamar Fisher of Montgomery, in Blanchard’s disappearance. In an arrest warrant filed with the court Monday, police said Fisher helped Yazeed by disposing of evidence and driving him.