The missing stepdaughter of a UFC heavyweight fighter is now being considered a victim of foul play.
“Evidence from within Aniah Blanchard’s vehicle, recovered in Montgomery, was examined by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and has now determined that she was harmed and is considered to be a victim of foul play,” the Auburn Police division said in a statement Wednesday.
Blanchard’s vehicle was discovered abandoned on Friday at an apartment complex in Montgomery with damage on the side of the vehicle—just two days after the 19-year-old vanished.
Blanchard, who is the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight fighter Walt Harris, last communicated with a friend on Oct. 23 just before midnight, police said. Blanchard’s mother, Angela Harris, told Nancy Grace on her podcast “Crime Stories” that she had sent her friend a Snapchat message suggesting that she was with a man she had recently met, CrimeOnline reports.
She was also captured on surveillance footage that same night at an Auburn convenience store at around 11:30 p.m.—but there has been little sign of the 19-year-old since.
"This is a criminal investigation. Obviously, we're approaching it as such. I think the only right way to do it is to approach it as if foul play is involved and as if there is someone or more than one person involved in this,” Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said Wednesday, according to ABC News. “We do not believe Aniah would or did essentially go missing on her own volition."
As they try to piece together what may have happened to Blanchard, the Auburn Police Division and Montgomery Police Department are asking for assistance from anyone who may have information about her whereabouts or who may have seen her vehicle after Oct. 23.
Auburn Police—and nine other agencies—have been working “diligently” to try to find Blanchard, local station WVTM reports.
A reward totaling $35,000 is also being offered for anyone who may have information in the case, police said. The reward is comprised of a $25,000 reward being offered by UFC President Dana White, a $5,000 reward from an anonymous source and a $5,000 reward announced this week by Gov. Kay Ivey.
“We are following this case closely, and I am remaining engaged with law enforcement on the state and local levels. I am issuing this reward to help encourage those with information to come forward. We continue to pray for Aniah and her family as law enforcement officials work to bring her home," Ivey said.
Blanchard’s family has also pleaded with the public to come forward if they know anything about the teenager’s disappearance.
“We’re still looking. We’re still searching. We need the public’s help,” Walt Harris said on “Crime Stories.”
Blanchard has been described by authorities as a light-complexioned black female with brown eyes and brown hair. She is approximately 5’6” and weighs 125 pounds.
She was last seen wearing a black dress, tan duck boots and black stockings, police said.
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