MACON COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - The month-long search for missing 19-year-old college student Aniah Blanchard has come to an end with the positive identification of her remains, according to law enforcement officials.
Auburn Police Chief Paul Register said Wednesday that forensic testing positively identified human remains found along a rural Macon County road Monday as those of the 19-year-old Homewood resident.
The remains, which were found several feet into the wood line, were located on County Road 2 near Highway 80 in Shorter. The area is less than four miles from Exit 22 on Interstate 85, and about a 35 to 40-minute drive from the convenience store where she was last seen alive.
“We have spoken with the family, obviously they’re heartbroken, but at least they can now begin to deal with this and move forward and plan for dealing with it,” Register said.
Register said the case will move forward as a homicide investigation and additional charges will be forthcoming.
“Now that we have a death, what we’re still waiting on is confirmation from the medical examiner’s office as far as a cause of death and a manner of death,” said Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes. “Our focus to this point has been finding Aniah and recovering her remains and getting her identified. Now that we have that process done, we’ll sit down and Chief Register and I’ll talk through what the next and appropriate charges will be.”
Register said crews will remain at the scene for the rest of the day and possibly a few more days. He urges anyone with additional information in this case to come forward.
“Again, we just ask that you remember what this is all about,” he said. “It’s about Aniah and her family and even though this case is at the point it is, if anyone has information that could further what we’re doing, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
Three people have been charged in connection with the kidnapping case: Ibraheem Yazeed is charged with first-degree kidnapping, Antwon “Squirmy” Fisher is charged with “providing transportation to Yazeed and disposing of evidence. David Johnson Jr., who was arrested Monday, is charged with hindering prosecution.
Following the confirmation that the remains are Blanchard’s, Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement saying:
“I am heartbroken for the family of Aniah Blanchard. Like Alabamians across our state, I was praying for a much different outcome. I will be keeping them in my prayers and ask the people of Alabama to continue to do so as well. During this holiday season, it is easy to get distracted in the hustle and bustle, but I urge us all to remember those that are hurting. I appreciate the diligence of the Auburn Police Division, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the many volunteers who were searching for Aniah. She is indeed loved and will be remembered by us all.”
The UFC, of which Aniah’s step-father Walt Harris is a fighter, tweeted about the confirmation:
“The loss of Aniah Is an unimaginable tragedy and UFC extends its deepest condolences to Walt and his family during this difficult time. We thank everyone for their support, including local and state Alabama law enforcement, media, athletes, managers and fans.”
Auburn University also reacted to the news:
“Our hearts are heavy over the loss of Aniah Blanchard. The Auburn Family extends our deepest sympathy and support to her family and our friends and neighbors at Southern Union State Community College.”
Blanchard was reported missing on Oct. 24. Auburn police said she spoke with friend late the night before, and she was seen on surveillance video inside a convenience store in Auburn around 11:30 that night.
Police later released a short surveillance video that showed Blanchard at the convenience store.
Her Honda CR-V was found Friday, Oct. 25 at a Montgomery apartment complex not far from Atlanta Highway. It had damage along its passenger side. On Oct. 31, police confirmed evidence found inside the vehicle indicated she had been harmed.
On Nov. 6, Auburn police release photos from the convenience store of a “person of interest” who was later identified as Yazeed. He was eventually arrested in Florida and extradited back to Alabama. Yazeed’s arrest led to the arrests of Fisher and Johnson.
More than a dozen law enforcement agencies have assisted the Auburn Police Department in this case. They include: Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes and staff, the U.S. Marshal Service who tracked and took suspects into custody to include the State of Florida, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s aircraft and personnel, Montgomery Police Department, Central Alabama Crime Stoppers, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Opelika Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama Fusion Center, Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as the Florida Gulf Coast University Department of Justice Studies.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: https://www.wsfa.com/news/aniah-blanchard/