Aniah Blanchard was allegedly kidnapped and the man who said he witnessed her abduction is remorseful over not reporting it sooner.
On Wednesday (Nov. 20), an Auburn police detective testified that the man cried when recalling his account of seeing Blanchard kidnapped, AL.com reports.
According to TMZ, the witness said he didn’t initially report the kidnapping to police because his wife told him to “stay out of it.”
Blanchard was last seen on Oct. 23 and reported missing on Oct. 24.
Ibraheem Yazeed was charged with kidnapping the 19-year-old college student after being captured in Pensacola, Florida, by U.S. Marshals on Nov. 7, following an issued arrest warrant.
Now, during a preliminary hearing on Wednesday (Nov. 20), Lee County District Judge Russell Bush ordered Yazeed to submit to a DNA mouth swab sample, as requested by prosecutors, and sent the case to a grand jury, AL.com reports.
Elijah Beaver, Yazeed’s attorney, requested bond, which Bush denied, and argued that the suspect had spent three years in jail for prior offenses that he was never convicted of, CNN reports.
“We’re seriously concerned that the same thing is happening again in this case,” Beaver said, adding that he was worried that Yazeed will spend another year in jail waiting for the grand jury, CNN reports.
Blanchard’s mother Angela Harris and stepfather, UFC heavyweight fighter, Walt Harris attended the hearing as well as her biological father, Elijah Blanchard, and stepmother Yashiba Blanchard, AL.com reports.
During the 30-minute hearing, the only witness to testify was Auburn police detective Josh Mixon, who described how Yazeed was identified as the suspect based on surveillance video from the store where Blanchard was last seen, AL.com reports.
In the video, according to Mixon’s testimony, Yazeed could be seen entering the store and while he was at the counter paying for an alcoholic beverage he looked over his shoulder at Blanchard as she walked past, AL.com reports.
Also in the video was a man wearing a blue jean jacket who entered the store at the same time as Yazeed. That man, whose name has not been released, was tracked down by investigators and said he saw Yazeed forcing Blanchard into her vehicle, a black 2017 Honda CRV, and then drove away, AL.com reports.
“He observes Yazeed forcing Blanchard into her vehicle against her will,” Mixon testified.
On Oct. 31, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences examined Blanchard’s vehicle, which was located 50 miles from Auburn at an apartment complex in Montgomery, where Yazeed is reportedly from, Oct. 25, the day after her family reported her missing.
Examiners determined she was “harmed and is considered to be a victim of foul play.”
Blood evidence was found inside Blanchard’s abandoned vehicle and, according to the affidavit in the case, “was indicative of someone suffering a life-threatening injury.”
Beaver, Yazeed’s lawyer, questioned Mixon about the witness, and the officer explained the man was staying at a nearby hotel and walked into the store at roughly the same time as the suspect, who the witness said he’d seen previously, AL.com reports.
Mixon also testified that after the witness returned to his hotel room after reportedly witnessing the kidnapping, he told a female companion and “she told him it was none of his business and to stay out of it,” AL.com reports.
The female companion recently suffered a miscarriage and the witness felt remorse about not coming forward earlier, Mixon said, AL.com reports.
Beaver argued the importance of publicly identifying the witness, but the prosecution, which includes Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes and Assistant DA Garrett Saucer, voiced their concern about witness intimidation, AL.com reports.
Hughes stated that the witness’s identity would be known if the case went to trial. But it was not required by the judge for the preliminary hearing, AL.com reports.
The next hearing set by Bush will be on Dec. 4 to consider arguments about the gag order he previously ordered and which several media companies have filed a motion to lift, AL.com reports.
While Beaver did not oppose the gag order he questioned if it was being fairly enforced since Blanchard’s mother and stepfather appeared on Dr. Phil, and he’s concerned that their public appearance could influence potential jurors and affect Yazeed getting a fair trial, AL.com reports.
Hughes responded, according to AL.com, “Grieving parents are trying to find their little girl.”
AL.com also reports that there is currently a $105,000 reward being offered for information about Blanchard’s disappearance.
Photo: Steve Dunwell