Shorter, AL – Alabama law enforcement officials have confirmed that the human remains found in a wooded area of Macon County on Monday have been identified as those of Aniah Haley Blanchard, stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.
Blanchard, 19, was last heard from just before midnight on Oct. 23, when she spoke to a friend, the Auburn Police Department (APD) said in a press release.
She and her black 2017 Honda CRV were reported as missing the following day.
Investigators located Blanchard’s damaged vehicle abandoned outside an apartment complex in Montgomery just after 6 p.m. on Oct. 26 – approximately 55 miles away from where she was last seen, USA Today reported.
Her Honda had been dented and scraped since her disappearance, and there was enough blood on the passenger seat to indicate that someone had suffered “a life-threatening injury,” according to court documents.
The blood in the vehicle was later confirmed to be Blanchard’s, USA Today reported.
On Nov. 8, members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task force and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department arrested 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in Pensacola, Florida, in connection with Blanchard’s disappearance, the APD said.
According to court documents, “a witness identified Yazeed as the individual he observed forcing Blanchard into a vehicle against her will and then leaving with her in the vehicle" from outside a convenience store in Auburn, court documents read, according to USA Today.
Yazeed was out on a $395,000 bond for charges of robbery, attempted murder, kidnapping, and marijuana possession at the time of Blanchard’s kidnapping.
He was also arrested for robbery in 2011 and attempted murder in 2012, but those cases were ultimately dismissed, USA Today reported.
Yazeed has been charged with first-degree kidnapping in connection with Blanchard’s disappearance, the APD said.
A second suspect, 35-year-old Antwain Shamar “Squirmy” Fisher, was arrested in Montgomery on the night of Nov. 22, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Fisher has been charged for aiding Yazeed by providing him with transportation, and for disposing of evidence.
He previously pleaded guilty to felony murder in the 2006 robbery and killing of Amy Rawls, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Fisher was sentenced to three years in prison – with credit for a year already served – followed by 17 years on probation for Rawls’ death.
On Monday, Lee County Judge Steven Speak ordered that Fisher be held without bond, and scheduled his preliminary hearing for Dec. 18, USA Today reported.
Investigators from multiple jurisdictions began searching a wooded area in the 3800-block of County Road 2 in Shorter on Nov. 25, after receiving information regarding the potential location of a body, according to the APD.
They located human remains several feet inside the wood line a short while later.
That same day, 63-year-old Montgomery resident David Lee Johnson was arrested for allegedly lying to investigators about his son’s involvement with Yazeed, USA Today reported.
Johnson’s son, David Lee Johnson III, was roommates with Fisher, and police had received a tip that Yazeed had been at their home.
On Nov. 7, Johnson told police that he saw Yazeed leave the residence "with an unknown white female in an unknown vehicle,” according to court documents.
The younger Johnson had actually taken Yazeed to Florida, according to USA Today.
He has not been charged in connection with Blanchard’s kidnapping.
The elder Johnson has been released from jail on $7,500 bond.
On Wednesday, the APD confirmed that the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences had positively identified the human remains found in the woods as those of Blanchard.
“At this point, the case will move forward as a homicide investigation, and additional charges are forthcoming,” the department said.
Her exact cause of death has not been determined.
Blanchard’s father, Elijah Blanchard, said that his daughter had a “heart of gold” and would “do anything to help anyone who needed it,” USA Today reported.
The Lee County community college student was busy figuring out which area of study she wanted to focus her attention on, he said.
"I want everybody to know that my daughter is a good person, all the way around. I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter," Elijah told USA Today. "It's evident she was special to so many people."
Blanchard’s stepfather, UFC fighter Walt Harris, posted a photo of him and Blanchard to Instagram on Thursday.
“I just wanna thank you for helping me change my life for the better...For teaching me how to be a man and a better father!” Harris wrote in the touching tribute. “This pain is unbearable...I know you want me to be strong but it so hard baby it so hard. I’m gonna find away I promise you I will. Right now nothing makes sense and I’m so lost. I just want you back.”
“I love you so much. Look after us like you always did. We need you now more than ever,” he continued. “My lil mighty mighty tiger is a angel now. I love you baby girl forever and ever!”