Murder charge announced in death of fighters’ stepdaughter

National News

Ibraheem Yazeed seated in court at the Lee County Courthouse. Yazeed is charged with allegedly kidnapping Aniah Blanchard from a gas station in Auburn. (Hannah Lester for the Opelika-Auburn News)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man being charged with capital murder in the shooting death of the stepdaughter of a well-known UFC fighter, authorities announced Monday.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said at a news conference that the capital murder charge is being filed against 29-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in the death of Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student and stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.

FILE – This undated file photo released by police in Auburn, Ala., shows Aniah Haley Blanchard. Auburn police have arrested a second man in the disappearance of Blanchard. Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes told The Associated Press by email Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, that 35-year-old Antwain Shamar Fisher of Montgomery has been charged with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance last month of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard. Fisher was arrested Friday and booked Saturday into the Lee County Jail, Hughes told the Opelika-Auburn News and WRBL-TV. Blanchard, whose stepfather is UFC participant Walt Harris of metro Birmingham, was last seen Oct. 23 at a convenience store in Auburn. (Auburn Police Division via AP, File)

Yazeed was already being held without bond on a kidnapping charge in the woman’s disappearance. Prosecutors said the charges are being upgraded after Blanchard’s remains were discovered in a wooded area and positively identified.

The medical examiner determined Blanchard had died from a gunshot wound, Hughes said in announcing plans by his office to pursue the death penalty against Yazeed.

Blanchard was last seen Oct. 23 in Auburn, Alabama, at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama. Her black Honda CRV was found abandoned days later more than 50 miles away at an apartment complex in Montgomery. Police said her blood was found in the car.

“This case has absolutely shaken our community to its core,” Hughes said.

Hughes said investigators believe Yazeed is the lone person responsible” for Blanchard’s death and abduction.

Two other people have been charged with hindering the investigator or helping Yazeed dispose of evidence. Hughes declined to discuss those cases Monday.

This Nov. 8, 2019 booking photo released by Escambia County Jail shows Ibraheem Yazeed in Pensacola, Fla. Authorities have arrested the man wanted in the disappearance of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris’ stepdaughter. Jail records show Yazeed was arrested in Florida and booked into the Escambia County Jail early Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. He’s charged with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was last seen at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama, on Oct. 23. (Escambia County Jail via AP)

A judge has issued a gag order in the case to limit attorney comments to the media. An attorney who represented Yazeed in the existing kidnapping case did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the upgraded charges.

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