A UFC heavyweight fighter is pleading with the public for help in finding his missing stepdaughter, Aniah Haley Blanchard, after Auburn Police said her vehicle was found Friday in Montgomery, Alabama.
Aniah, of Auburn, Alabama, was last heard from on Wednesday, October 23, 2019, when she spoke to a friend on the phone just before midnight, according to Auburn Police.
The 19-year-old college student was last seen on that same day, driving her black 2017 Honda CR-V. On Monday, as part of an ongoing joint investigation, Auburn Police and Montgomery Police, released a snippet of security video that shows Aniah making a purchase at a convenience store located on South College Street, on Wednesday, October 23, just prior to driving the CR-V southbound on South College Street.
Aniah’s mother, Angela Haley-Harris, told WBRC in Birmingham, that Aniah had apparently met a young man that Wednesday night. The identity of the young man was not known. Angela said Aniah’s debit card was used the same night and that her phone went dark after 11:57 p.m.
She was reported missing by her family on Thursday.
Aniah’s stepfather, UFC heavyweight fighter Walt Harris, shared photos of Aniah on his Instagram page on Thursday, pleading with the public to come forward with information.
"Please help find my baby Aniah Blanchard. She is missing [in] Auburn," Harris, one of the top UFC contenders in the heavyweight division, told his nearly 30,000 followers. "Please help!!!! Any info message me on here or call the Auburn police … PLEASE SHARE THIS!!!!"
On Friday around 6:15 p.m., Aniah’s car was found by a resident at a Montgomery apartment complex on Boardwalk Boulevard, according to a statement released by the Auburn Police Department.
Photos of the vehicle released by police showed damage to the front right fender and scrapes on the passenger-side door. Police said the vehicle had no damage when it was last seen on Wednesday.
“While the vehicle has been recovered, [Aniah] has not been located. The investigation continues regarding her disappearance,” according to a statement by Auburn Police Captain Lorenza Dorsey.
"At this point, there is no evidence of foul play; however, the investigation will continue until her whereabouts are determined," the statement continued.
Aniah's aunt, Ora Gerald, told Dateline that she is pleading with the public to keep searching to Aniah and to come forward with information that may help lead to her location.
"We're just really worried about her and we want the community to know they can come forward with any tips that may help," Ora said.
Aniah is a native of Homewood, and a student at Southern Union State Community College.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Aniah and her family during this time," the school posted on its Facebook page.
Aniah’s family posted on social media warning about GoFundMe pages requesting money in their daughter’s name.
“We want to let you guys know that there has been no official GoFundMe account set up for finding Aniah so we don’t want you to donate to any GoFundMe accounts if you want to donate to us to find her we have created a PayPal account and to find that PayPal account it’s going to be FindAniahBlanchard@gmail.com.”
Aniah is described as light in complexion, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, 125 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a black dress, tan duck boots, and black stockings.
The Montgomery Police Department, FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Lee County District Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama Fusion Center and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences are assisting with the investigation.
Anyone with information on Aniah’s whereabouts is asked to call the Auburn Police Division Detective Section at 334-501-3140, the anonymous tip line at 334-246-1391, or the 24-hour non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.
UPDATE: Alabama authorities issued a warrant Thursday, November 7, 2019, for 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed, after video surveillance showed him inside the convenience store where Aniah Haley Blanchard was last seen, police told NBC News.
Yazeed was seen in the video wearing a camouflage colored jacket with “Vans” in white writing across the back and driving a late 2000’s model Lincoln Town Car that appeared to be either silver or grey.
Auburn Police Chief Paul Register told reporters Thursday that they were looking into whether Blanchard might have known Yazeed.
We don't have any reason to know that she was familiar with him, but we can't rule out completely that there would have been some knowledge," Register said.
Register emphasized that Yazeed should be considered armed and dangerous. The public is asked to contact authorities immediately upon sighting Yazeed or Blanchard.