An Alabama judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors have enough evidence to take the murder case against Ibraheem Yazeed, accused of kidnapping and killing college student Aniah Blanchard last fall, to a grand jury.
Judge Russell Bush had already found probable cause to send the kidnapping charge to a grand jury, WTVM reported.
Blanchard, a 19-year-old student at Southern Union State Community College, was reported abducted from an Auburn convenience store on October 23. Two days later, authorities in Montgomery found her vehicle, damaged and with a “life-threatening” amount of blood on the passenger side, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Blanchard’s remains were found in a rural spot in Macon County, about 35 miles from Auburn on the way to Montgomery, on November 25, CrimeOnline reported. Yazeed, who had been seen with Blanchard by witnesses and on surveillance footage, had been arrested a week earlier.
Auburn Police Detective Josh Mixon testified on Wednesday about the timeline of Blanchard’s kidnapping, saying the ordeal began shortly after 11 p.m. when she dropped her brother off at his home, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. Within the next 40 minutes, Mixon said, Blanchard stopped at a convenience store and bought a bag of chips, met Yazeed, and drove him to a second convenience store where he was seen on video getting out and getting back into the passenger seat of her Honda CR-V.
At 11:38 p.m., according to Mixon, Blanchard’s roommate received a text from Blanchard’s phone. “I’m smoking a blunt, lol,” the message said.
“The roommate says ‘I stayed up to see you but I’m gonna go to sleep. Wish you would have let me know. lol,’ ” said Mixon, who said there was no way to know if Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris, was the one who sent the messages. “At 11:39, almost immediately, she replies back ‘I didn’t know.'”
Mixon said the roommate then asked who she was with. “Aniah’s device replies ‘Eric,’ ” Mixon testified. “Then her roommate says at 11:42 p.m. ‘who’s that?’ and a text was sent back that says ‘I just met him.’ ”
Although a witness said last fall he saw Yazeed force Blanchard into her vehicle, surveillance footage shows him in the passenger seat and Blanchard apparently willingly driving. After the last convenience store, however, that must have changed.
Yazeed’s attorney William Whatley Jr. argued that there was no evidence Yazeed forced Blanchard anywhere, but Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said Yazeed’s use of a false name was evidence enough.
“She was lured under false pretenses,” Hughes said.
Mixon also described the discovery of Blanchard’s remains, with a bullet hole in her skull and a projectile beneath her. Mixon also said evidence showed that Blanchard was shot inside her vehicle, with a bullet hole in the passenger door, a live round in the cup holder, and chips strewn about the car.
The detective also testified that a witness said he was with Yazeed when he saw him drag something out of a truck wrapped in a comforter in Macon County, where Blanchard’s remains were found.
“Squirmy tells Yazeed, ‘Tell me that’s not a body.’ Yazeed replies, ‘It won’t come back on you or your family,’” Mixon said on the stand.
Whatley also argued that there was no proof any of the alleged crimes took place in Lee County, where Auburn is, and not in Macon County, where the body was found. Bush, however, disagreed.
“I find probable cause exists that the kidnapping happened in Lee County,” the judge said after 90 minutes of testimony. “It will be bound over to a grand jury.”
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[Featured image: Aniah Blanchard/Facebook]