The family of a missing Alabama college student—and the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight fighter—is pleading with the public for answers as the reward for information about the case grows.
Aniah Blanchard disappeared Oct. 23 after she last talked with a friend via Snapchat just before midnight. Blanchard is the stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.
Angela Harris, Blanchard’s mother, told Nancy Grace on her podcast “Crime Stories” that before she disappeared, Blanchard sent Snapchat messages to her friend suggesting she was with a man she had recently met, CrimeOnline reports.
Blanchard was also captured that night on surveillance footage at an Auburn convenience store around 11:30 p.m. where she appeared to be buying a snack.
Her mother said it was common for her daughter to get a snack before she went to bed. It’s not clear whether there was a man with her at the time or not.
Her family said that she had dropped her brother off earlier in the night in Auburn and mentioned at the time that her phone was dying.
But the family became concerned after they didn’t hear from her and she failed to take the children she babysits to school the next morning.
"She always calls me at the end of the day to see how my day was," her father Elijah Blanchard told ABC News Monday. "She would never not contact somebody and let them know what she's doing."
Just a few days later, the family learned of another disturbing development in the case. The 19-year-old’s black 2017 Honda CRV was found abandoned near an apartment complex in Montgomery, nearly 50 miles from her home.
There was no sign of the missing teen but the vehicle had damage to the front left tire area. Investigators believe the damage may have been caused sometime after she was last seen.
“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 told ABC News on Wednesday. “We do not believe Aniah would or did essentially go missing on her own volition."
In an effort to find the missing teen, UFC President Dana White announced the UFC planned to offer a $25,000 reward for information in the case. Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey also announced a $5,000 reward in the case on Wednesday.
Her family has expressed frustration that investigators have provided little information about the identity of the man who she'd told her friend she met.
“We don’t know who he is. We have no idea who this person is. We don’t even know if it was Aniah making those Snapchat text messages to her roommate,” her mother told Nancy Grace. “This is why this is so hard—We have nothing to go on.”
The family is now looking to the public to provide any tips or information they may have about the case.
“We’re still looking. We’re still searching. We need the public’s help,” Walt Harris said.
She 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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