Suspect in Aniah Blanchard disappearance appears before Lee County judge

Suspect in Blanchard disappearance appears before Lee County judge

AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - The man police believe kidnapped Aniah Blanchard made his first appearance in court Sunday afternoon, but WSFA 12 News was denied access.

In a rare Sunday hearing during a long holiday weekend, kidnapping suspect Ibraheem Yazeed made his initial court appearance before Judge Russell Bush. The media - and a representative from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office - were not let into the building. WSFA 12 News later learned a gag order has been issued in this case, something rarely seen at the district court level.

Suspects are scheduled for a first appearance before a judge within 72 hours after their arrest. Court proceedings are public hearings, and it’s unclear why this hearing was restricted. We questioned several officials, including the district attorney, but they declined to comment. Blanchard’s family was escorted out of the courthouse by deputies after the hearing concluded.

Yazeed was out on bond for a kidnapping case out of Montgomery when he was arrested in this case, and that bond has been revoked. It’s unclear whether a bail has been set for the latest kidnapping count.

Yazeed was identified as a suspect in the case on Thursday, and a warrant was issued for his arrest on a first-degree kidnapping charge. The U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force took him into custody shortly before midnight Thursday in Pensacola, Florida, and on Saturday he was behind bars in Lee County.

Blanchard was reported missing on Oct. 24. A total of 11 agencies are actively searching for her, with investigators keying in on the area between Auburn and Montgomery. Surveillance video from a convenience store put her in Auburn on Oct. 23, and photos from the store show Yazeed was there at the same time.

A witness told authorities he saw Yazeed force Blanchard into a car, and an affidavit states blood evidence, “indicative of someone suffering a life-threatening injury,” was found in the passenger compartment of Blanchard’s 2017 Honda CR-V. Her vehicle was found on Oct. 25 at an apartment complex in Montgomery, and it had sustained damage.

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