Remains located in Alabama confirmed to be Aniah Blanchard

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Aniah Blanchard disappeared in the early hours of October 24th

Aniah Blanchard had been missing since October 24th, and Monday her remains were located in Alabama. The kidnapping case against three defendants will now be upgraded to a murder case. Aniah is the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris. The story is both tragic and perhaps more sadly, tragically preventable. 

Aniah Blanchard’s disappearance

Nineteen-year-old Aniah Blanchard attended college at Southern Union State Community College. She’s the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight contender Walt Harris. In fact, many first heard of her being missing via Instagram when Walt Harris posted her photo. UFC president Dana White also posted via social media and it seemed as if everyone was talking about finding her.

A video of Blanchard in a convenience store eventually surfaced. In addition the video, an eyewitness saw her being forced into a car against her will. That witness opted to not intervene and only came forward with the information much later. It’s only one of the baffling facts in this tragic case. According to court documents, his wife instructed him not to get involved. She stated it was “none of his business and to stay out of it,” he testified. Cases like this will always be shrouded in ‘what ifs.’  What if the witness had tried to help Aniah, or simply written down a license plate number and called authorities? Unfortunately, we will never know.

Seemingly nothing was moving on the case, and then her damaged vehicle was located some 50 miles away in an apartment complex in Montgomery, Alabama. Police immediately stated they suspected foul play due to blood evidence in the vehicle, which was typical with someone suffering a “life-threatening” injury. The blood was tested and found to be Aniah Blanchard’s.

Ibraheem Yazeed gets arrested.

Ibraheem Yazeed, 29 was arrested due to DNA evidence and an eyewitness account. The witness identified Yazeed as the man forcing Aniah into a car against her will. His arrest came at the hands of US Marshalls in Florida. The fact that is so maddening is that this is a man who was on bond for another kidnapping and has a lengthy criminal record. There is no reason whatsoever that he should have been free to allegedly commit this crime. Let’s take a look at Mr. Yazeed and try and determine why he was free.

At the time of his arrest for the disappearance of Aniah Blanchard, Yazeed was out on a $280,000 bond. His bond was for two counts of kidnapping, robbery and one count of attempted murder from a previous Montgomery, Alabama incident. In that case, earlier this year, two men were held against their will in a hotel room. One man was severely beaten and robbed. One of the victims, a 77-year-old male was beaten to the point of unconsciousness and near-death according to court reports. Yazeed stole his cash, a Rolex, a rifle, a handgun, his wallet, and clothes. Why was this man free to commit another serious crime? It’s a question that must at some point be answered.

Two other men have since been arrested in association with Blanchard’s kidnapping. Antwain Fisher, 35, was arrested as an accomplice. A third man, David Johnson Jr was arrested for hindering an investigation and allegedly driving Yazeed to Florida after the kidnapping.

Remains are located in rural Alabama

Though arrests had been made, it was still unclear what exactly happened to Aniah Blanchard. Everyone was hoping that she’d be found alive. As people who follow these cases know, the likelihood of finding a kidnapping victim alive and well after 72 hours isn’t great. That said, when hope is all you have to hold onto, it’s a powerful thing. All parties involved would soon have that hope dashed.

Monday afternoon, skeletal remains were located in a wooded area in Macon County, near the town of Shorter, Alabama. Police suspected the remains were those of Blanchard’s. On Wednesday authorities confirmed the remains as those of Blanchard.

It’s the worst-case scenario for those who were close to Aniah Blanchard. It begs the question of not just why, but how this was allowed to occur. Our thoughts are with those who are enduring this tragic loss, including Walt Harris.

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Dan has been covering and writing about MMA since 2001 when he started at Sherdog. He is a fan of all Bay Area sports teams and loves the San Francisco 49ers.

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