Murder Charge Announced in Death of Fighter’s Stepdaughter

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
December 3, 2019US News
Murder Charge Announced in Death of Fighter’s Stepdaughter
Aniah Haley Blanchard, 19. (Courtesy of Auburn Police Department)

AUBURN, Ala.—Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man being charged with capital murder in the shooting death of the stepdaughter of a well-known UFC fighter, authorities announced Monday.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said at a news conference that the capital murder charge is being filed against 29-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in the death of Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student and stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.

Yazeed was already being held without bond on a kidnapping charge in the woman’s disappearance. Prosecutors said the charges are being upgraded after Blanchard’s remains were discovered in a wooded area and positively identified.

Ibrahim Yazeed, second left, appears in court for a hearing
Ibrahim Yazeed, second left, appears in court for a hearing on the disappearance of college student Aniah Blanchard, on Wednesday, in Opelika, Ala.,on Nov. 20, 2019. (Hannah Lester/Opelika-Auburn News via AP)

The medical examiner determined Blanchard had died from a gunshot wound, Hughes said in announcing plans by his office to pursue the death penalty against Yazeed.

Blanchard was last seen Oct. 23 in Auburn, Alabama, at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama.

Her black Honda CRV was found abandoned days later more than 50 miles away at an apartment complex in Montgomery. Police said her blood was found in the car.

Aniah Blanchard’s car was found with damage to the front passenger side. (Auburn Police Department)

“This case has absolutely shaken our community to its core,” Hughes said.

Hughes said investigators believe Yazeed is the lone person responsible” for Blanchard’s death and abduction.

Two other people have been charged with hindering the investigator or helping Yazeed dispose of evidence. Hughes declined to discuss those cases Monday.

A judge has issued a gag order in the case to limit attorney comments to the media. An attorney who represented Yazeed in the existing kidnapping case did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the upgraded charges.

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