AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – On the fourth anniversary of Aniah Blanchard’s death her family and friends are gathering at Homewood Central Park at 6:22 Monday to commemorate her life and the impact she has had on Alabama and beyond.
Aniah’s life was cut short on October 23, 2019, when, as a 19-year-old Southern Union college student in Opelika, police say she was kidnapped after stopping at an Auburn gas station to purchase a bag of chips. Police say a chance encounter with the suspect, 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed, led to her abduction and murder. Yazeed was out on bond at the time, facing another case of Kidnapping and Attempted Murder.
Blanchard’s family says Yazeed’s criminal history and Attempted Murder charges in an unrelated case should have been enough to keep him behind bars, awaiting trial. Instead, he was out on bond when Blanchard was killed. Before Aniah’s law, only persons charged with Capital Murder could be held without bond before trial. Aniah’s family’s push for justice and change in the legal system was relentless. Aniah’s Law was passed with nearly 80% of Alabamians’ support in the 2022 General Election. The law is named in her honor and allows judges more discretion when deciding if suspects charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape, sodomy, domestic violence, human trafficking, burglary, arson, robbery, Class A felony terrorism, and aggravated child abuse are eligible for bail.
Aniah’s mother, Angela Harris, expressed the deep pain the anniversary brings but also her determination to ensure her daughter’s memory lives on and justice prevails.
“My heart is about to explode with so much pain but so are Aniah Blanchard’s friends and family!!!! We are not ok,” shared Harris on social media.
Harris says the pain comes in waves, and there are several days she feels like drowning in the loss of Aniah. Harris finds some solace in the knowledge that, thanks to her daughter, other women, children, and men will be spared harm, as alleged violent defendants stay behind bars until trial when prosecutors deem Aniah’s Law necessary and a judge concurs during an Aniah’s hearing.
Aniah’s family established Aniah’s Heart, a non-profit committed to preserving lives through prevention awareness and empowering vulnerable individuals to make a substantial impact on reducing violence and crime. The organization provides self-defense classes, advocates for victims’ rights and their families, and operates around the clock on social media, sharing stories of the missing in Alabama and beyond. Their presence serves to raise awareness for other missing persons’ cases, with the hope of reuniting them with their loved ones.
So far the capital murder trial date has not been set. Monday, WRBL reached out to the Alabama Attorney General for any information. however, since the case has not gone to trial, it is likely the AG’s office will not comment at this time.
Blanchard’s body was discovered on November 25, 2019, in a wooded area in Macon County. Yazeed is being held without bond as he faces allegations of capital murder charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole on each charge. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case in Macon County. After a grand jury met in November of last year Yazeed was indicted on three counts of capital murder on November 14, 2022.
Specifically, the indictment charges Yazeed with one count of capital murder during a kidnapping in the first degree, one count of capital murder during a robbery in the first degree, and one count of capital murder involving a victim in a vehicle. The indictment charges Yazeed intentionally caused the death of Blanchard by shooting her with a gun while abducting her and robbing her of a vehicle and cell phone. The indictment also charges Yazeed intentionally caused Blanchard’s death while in her vehicle.