The man charged with kidnapping Aniah Blanchard is now charged in her death, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes announced on Monday.
Blanchard, 19, was abducted in October outside an Auburn convenience store and was found dead last week in rural Macon County woods. The cause of Blanchard’s death was a gunshot wound, Hughes said.
Three people have been charged in connection with the abduction.
Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, was initially charged with first-degree kidnapping and has been held without bond in the Lee County Jail since his Nov. 8 arrest. Video evidence from the College Street convenience store placed both Blanchard and Yazeed at the store during the same time. Yazeed has a history of arrests for violent crimes.
Yazeed is now charged with capital murder. Hughes said his office will seek the death penalty.
During the course of the investigation into Blanchard’s disappearance, it was determined Yazeed abducted her from the Chevron gas station on College Street in Auburn, Hughes said. “After the arrest of Mr. Yazeed, the focus of the investigation turned exclusively to finding Aniah,” he said.
On Nov. 25, investigative efforts led authorities to County Road 2 in Macon County where human remains were found and later determined by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences to be those of Blanchard.
The charge against Yazeed is capital murder because Blanchard was killed during the course of another felony crime, which in this case was kidnapping. Hughes declined to say when Blanchard was actually shot to death, nor would he discuss whether Blanchard was a crime of opportunity and what the suspect’s ultimate motive may have been.
“In the interests of public safety, I can say that the investigation has determined Ibraheem Yazeed to be the lone person responsible for Aniah’s abduction and her murder and he remains in the Lee County jail without bond,” Hughes said. “Mr. Yazeed remains innocent of any charges against him until his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“This case has shaken our community to its core, and I cannot say enough about how the Auburn Police Division—and every other agency involved in this case—responded to the report of Aniah’s disappearance,” the district attorney said. “From its first moments, law enforcement moved swiftly and methodically to find Aniah’s abductor, her murderer, and her. The process of seeing justice done on behalf of Aniah and her family will not be swift, but it will be thorough.”
“It is my intention that the response to this horrific crime serve as a warning to anyone who believes they want to come to Lee County and engage in violent criminal behavior. You will be dealt with and the consequences will be severe,” Hughes said.
The two others charged in connection to the case are Antwain “Squirmy” Fisher, 35, and David Lee Johnson Sr., 63.
Fisher is also charged with first-degree kidnapping and remains held on $50,000 bond. Authorities said Fisher “provided material assistance to Yazeed by providing transportation to Yazeed, and disposing of evidence,’’ according to court records.
Johnson is charged with hindering prosecution. Authorities say he knew his son allegedly drove Yazeed to Florida, but instead told investigators Yazeed left his home with an unidentified woman. Johnson has been released on bond.
Hughes did not say whether charges against Fisher or Johnson could later be upgraded as well.
The announcement came one week after Blanchard’s remains were discovered and police officially declared her death a homicide investigation.
The 19-year-old Southern Union College student from Homewood was officially reported missing Thursday, Oct. 24. She last communicated with a friend late on the night of Oct. 23. Police said her vehicle was seen in the early-morning hours of Oct. 24 along South College Street.
Police recovered the teen’s black 2017 Honda CRV from an apartment complex on the 6100 block of Boardwalk Boulevard in Montgomery around 6:15 p.m. the following evening, which was Friday. A citizen reported the vehicle to police.
Blood evidence was discovered in the passenger’s compartment of the vehicle and was “indicative of someone suffering a life-threatening injury.” The evidence was submitted to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and confirmed to be that of Blanchard.
Her remains were found Monday, Nov. 25, during a search in the 38000 block of County Road 2 in Shorter. Authorities have not announced what led that to that area.
A witness told police he saw Yazeed force Blanchard into her car against her will. That witness told investigators he didn’t call police because his female companion – who police said was either his wife or a girlfriend – told him not to get involved.
At the time of his arrest in the Blanchard case, Yazeed was out on bond on charges of murder and kidnapping in connection with a January 2019 crime. According to court records, two male victims – one of them 77-years-old – were held against their will in a hotel room in January 2019 on the 1200 block of Eastern Boulevard.
The older man was beaten until “unconscious, unresponsive, severely injured and near death” and robbed of a Rolex, rifle, handguns, wallet, bank card, clothing and unknown amount of currency. The other man was also beaten and robbed of at least $40.
In July 2017, Yazeed was arrested by Cass County sheriff’s deputies in Missouri on an arrest warrant for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
Yazeed also previously pleaded guilty to felony drug possession in 2015 and received a 13-month suspended sentence. In 2012, he was charged with attempted murder after authorities said he rammed his car into a Montgomery police vehicle. A grand jury declined to indict him on those charges as well.
The previous year – 2011 – Yazeed was charged with two counts of robbery after a man was robbed of more than $2,000, a cell phone and a Gucci watch. A grand jury also declined to indict him on those charges.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced. Her father and her stepfather recently posted about her death on their social media platforms.
“As I sit here tonight I have so many thoughts going through my mind… I am hurting so bad, I really don’t know what to do. I have never felt pain such as this, I am asking for prayer. I can’t seem to understand why my daughter my only daughter, I can’t understand,’’ her father, Elijah Blanchard, posted on Facebook. “If you have children, hold them a little tighter today. Tell them how they have changed your life for the better. It is some monsters in this world that don’t have any conscience, heartless and evil. I will get through this one second at a time.”
Blanchard’s mother, Angela Harris, spoke at a vigil held in Homewood last week. “My life’s never going to be the same again without her. She’s never going to get to have my grandbabies that I wanted her to have, see her get married and be a teacher and be a softball coach. She made life better for all of us,” Harris said. “Aniah was only going to the store to buy a bag of potato chips and if you know Aniah you know how much she loved to eat. And that’s all she was doing, and she ran into evil.”
Blanchard’s stepfather, UFC fighter Walt Harris, posted on Instagram. “My sweet baby girl… 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,” he wrote. “For being my biggest fan win, lose, or draw. For always knowing what to say to put a smile on my face and lift me up when I was down and wanted to give up. You light up my world I’m so many ways. This pain is unbearable.”
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