MACON COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – The search for 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard officially closes in heartache as the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences confirms human remains discovered Monday in the Shorter community off County Road 2 belong to the Auburn teenager.
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes confirmed the information with news 3 late Wednesday afternoon.
Blanchard’s family was notified shortly after the discovery of the remains Monday morning and have since been informed their daughter has been located deceased. Investigators have said Blanchard is a victim of foul play. Blanchard’s suspected cause of death remains under investigation.
Auburn Police released the following information:
“After previous searches of dozens of areas, the Auburn Police and Fire Divisions assisted by the Alabama Law Enforcement agency’s SBI Unit, a team of Anthropologists from Florida Gulf Coast University, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office as well as over 100 first responders from throughout the area have been examining a wooded area in the 38,000 block of County Road 2 in Shorter, Alabama where human remains were found on Monday, November 25, 2019. The remains were believed to be that of Aniah Haley Blanchard who was reported missing on October 24, 2019; it is with heavy hearts that we announce that the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has positively identified the remains as those of Aniah Haley Blanchard. At this point, the case will move forward as a Homicide investigation and additional charges are forthcoming.Those working over a month and assisting the Auburn Police Division in the investigation include but are not limited to: Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes and staff, the US 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 US Department of Homeland Security as well as the Florida Gulf Coast University Department of Justice Studies.”
The positive identification is expected to send ripples of anguish across the country as many prayed for Aniah to make it home safely to her loved ones. The information marks a gut-wrenching final chapter in the month-long search for Blanchard.
“I am heartbroken for the family of Aniah Blanchard,” said Governor Ivey. “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,” said Alabama’s Governor.
At the same time, the forensic confirmation kickstarts a new destination for investigators seeking justice in Blanchard’s suspected kidnapping and death. News 3 is told Auburn police and the Lee County District Attorney’s Office first mission was to locate Aniah for her family. Now, investigators are methodically considering their next steps in the case including upgrading charges. Right now, 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed is charged with Kidnapping First Degree.
Monday, investigators said they had credible information the remains were Blanchard but declined to get into specifics as forensics worked to confirm the identity. Auburn police say Monday morning they received information leading them to County Road 2. A quick search led them to the remains several feet into the woodline near a church.
The heavily wooded scene where Blanchard was discovered more than 48-hours ago remains blocked and secured as dozens of law enforcement agents from the local, state and federal level continue processing every inch of the location and collecting evidence.
Monday night investigators told News 3 they had arrested and charged all three “principal participants” responsible for harming Aniah Blanchard.
“Everyone that played a role in Aniah’s disappearance is now in custody,” said Chief Paul Register.
30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed, 35-year-old Antwon “Squirmey” Fisher of Montgomery are charged with Kidnapping First Degree.
They are both being held in the Lee County Detention Facility. Yazeed has no bond and Fisher was originally given a no bond as well. Later on Monday, he was given a $50,000 bond. As of Wednesday Fisher remained incarcerated.
David Johnson Jr. was arrested and charged with Hindering Prosecution in Montgomery for his alleged role in Blanchard’s disappearance. He has posted a bond.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS IN ANIAH BLANCHARD CASE
Wednesday Night – October 23: Blanchard is seen on video at the Chevron Gas Station along South College Street in Auburn, Alabama. The video is the last known image of Blanchard.
Thursday – October 24: Blanchard is reporting missing to the police by her family. Investigators say Blanchard’s SUV is seen traveling in the early morning hours along South College Street in Auburn, Alabama.
Friday Night – October 25: Blanchard’s black Honda CR-V SUV is recovered at Park Place Apartments in Montgomery, Alabama. The vehicle has been damaged. Evidence is recovered from inside the vehicle.
Thursday – October 31: Police confirm for the first time publicly evidence taken from inside the SUV tested by the Department of Forensic Sciences indicates Aniah Blanchard has been harmed and is a victim of foul play. A “life threatening” amount of Blanchard’s blood was discovered in the vehicle.
Monday – November 6: Police ask public assistance in identifying a person of interest seen on surveillance video inside Auburn Chevron gas station along South College Street at the same time as Blanchard. Investigators say Yazeed was in the store purchasing an alcoholic drink when Blanchard walked in and Yazeed turns and noticed her as he got change. Investigators say they located a witness who claims he saw Yazeed push the teen into her vehicle and drive off.
Tuesday – November 7: 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed of Montgomery named as the wanted suspect in the Kidnapping of Aniah Blanchard. Yazeed is taken into custody in Pensacola, Florida at 11 p.m.
Friday – November 22: Second suspect in disappearance of Aniah Blanchard arrested identified as Antwon Fisher, AKA Squirmy, charged with Kidnapping 1st degree. Investigators say Fisher provided assistance to Yazeed by providing transportation to Yazeed and disposing of evidence.
Monday – November 25: Human remains suspected to belong to Aniah Blanchard located in Macon County.
November 25: Prosecutors confirm 63-year-old David Johnson Jr. was arrested and charged with Hindering Prosecution in Montgomery. An affidavit indicates David Johnson Jr. lied to investigators about Yazeed’s actions after Blanchard vanished. The affidavit alleges detectives discovered later Johnson III, the son of Jonson Jr., drove Yazeed to Florida and Johnson Jr. later admitted he knew Yazeed was wanted the first time officers came to the residence and that he saw Yazeed leave with his son.
Wednesday – November 27: The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences confirms remains located along County Road 2 in Macon County belong to 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard. The positive identification comes 35 days after the quest to find Aniah began.
News 3 will continue to update you on this developing story.