For more than a month the family and loved ones of Aniah Blanchard waited in agony to find out if their beloved daughter, sister, and friend would return home alive. On November 27, any hope of that was lost when authorities confirmed that Blanchard’s remains were found in Macon County, Alabama. Now, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the man they believe is responsible for her murder.
Authorities named Ibraheem Yazeed as a person of interest when video footage caught him interacting with Blanchard at a convenience store gas station the night of her disappearance. The 30-year-old was arrested on kidnapping charges days later and held without bond. Police also recovered Blanchard’s damaged, Honda CR-V miles away from her last known location. They determined that her blood was was splattered on the passenger side of the vehicle.
The discovery led authorities to suspect that the Alabama college student was severely hurt. On Monday, it was announced that the medical examiner’s office concluded Blanchard’s death stemmed from a gunshot wound. The determination was based on an autopsy and tests, according to CBS42.
“As a result of the determination by the medical examiner’s office, we are now upgrading the charges from kidnapping first degree to capital murder,” Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said during a press conference announcing the charges. “And in this case, capital murder is the intentional murder during the course of a kidnapping, and we will also be seeking the death penalty against Mr. Yazeed.”
Hughes also took the time to confirm that Yazeed is considered “the lone person responsible” in Blanchard’s death, though two other men were arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance. Yazeed has a criminal record and a witness identified him as the person who forced Blanchard into a car.
Hughes said he is seeking the harshest punishment in the case and issued a strong warning to savage criminals: “To anyone who believes they want to come to Lee County and engage in violent criminal behavior, you will certainly be dealt with, and the consequences will be severe.”