AUBURN, Ala (WRBL) – As the search for 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard enters day 20, News 3 is learning Texas EquuSearch, the national search group who’s been looking for Blanchard is suspending its search and heading back to Texas Tuesday night.
The group tells News 3 they are heartbroken to leave without locating Aniah Blanchard, but they will come back if needed.
“We’re heavy-hearted as we head back to Texas today. The Auburn community has been so supportive while we’ve been here, and for that, we’re very grateful. They’ve given us help in every way we’ve asked. It’s always hard to leave folks without the answer we came here to find. But we’ve used every resource available to us over the last nine days to locate Aniah, so until we have new information that leads us in a new direction, we’re suspending the search. We have faith in the Auburn Police Dept the Public and other agencies involved in finding us that new lead. We’re prepared to come back immediately when the call comes,” shared Destinie Duvall with Texas EquuSearch.
News 3 has confirmed on Sunday the 30-year-old suspect in Blanchard’s kidnapping, Ibraheem Yazeed, had his initial court appearance in the case.
Before the appearance on November 8, District Court Judge Russell K. Bush ordered Yazeed to be held without bond because the Court found him to be a danger to the public.
Tuesday, News 3 obtained a copy of the Order That Defendant Be Held Without Bond and Gag Order:
“The motion for Defendant to be held without bond filed by the state of Alabama, having been considered by the Court, is hereby granted for the reasons put forth therein. The Court is satisfied that the Defendant is a danger to the public. As such, the Defendant is ordered to be held without bond on the above-referenced charge.”
The same court document details a gag order preventing law enforcement or anyone associated with the case from speaking with the media imposed by Judge Bush.
“Further, in the interest of justice, at this time the parties and any potential witnesses in the above-styled matter are prohibited from making any statements to members of the media, or directly discussing their involvement in this case or any current or future trial proceedings with members of the media. This includes, but is not limited to, interviews with reporters representing media outlets as well as publication or posting of the same on social media. All questions should be directed to the Lee County Court Administrator.”
Per instructions written on the gag order to direct all questions to the Lee County Court Administrator, News 3 met today with the court administrator Tricia Campbell on Tuesday. News 3 asked how the order would impact updates from police during the ongoing search for Blanchard and other person(s) of interest as well as upcoming court dates in Yazeed’s case.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Campbell told News 3 she could not release any information because she too was under the same gag order. We are told any questions relating to the gag order need to be filed with the Court. So, as of Tuesday night, News 3 is still awaiting clarification on how to continue reporting on Blanchard’s disappearance and gaining factual information confirmed by law enforcement as the continued search for the missing teen remains very much public concern.
Yazeed was captured in Escambia County, Florida, late Thursday night, nearly 144 miles south of Montgomery. He was extradited to Lee County on Friday night and had his first court appearance on Sunday.
Thursday afternoon, investigators released Yazeed was a suspect in Blanchard’s disappearance after he was seen on October 23 surveillance video from inside the Chevron at the same time Blanchard was in the store.
Thursday night, Yazeed was carried out on a stretcher allegedly complaining of chest pains after he became the captured target of a massive manhunt and taken into custody by U.S. Marshalls in Escambia County, Florida.
Police believe others were involved in Blanchard’s abduction, and there is no indication Blanchard and Yazeed knew one another before the alleged attack.
News 3 has learned blood belonging to the Auburn teen was discovered in her abandoned SUV, and a witness has come forward saying they saw the suspect force Blanchard into her SUV at the gas station where she was last seen the night of October 23.
The Affidavit Charging Crime obtained by News 3 reads:
“The victim’s vehicle, a black 2017 Honda CRV, was later located abandoned in Montgomery, Alabama. Blood evidence was discovered in the passenger’s compartment of the vehicle that was indicative of someone suffering a life-threatening injury. The evidence was submitted to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and confirmed to be that of Aniah Blanchard. Video evidence from a convenience store located at South College St. in Auburn placed both Blanchard and a black male later positively identified as Ibraheem Yazeed at the store during the same time; this was the last time she was seen. During the subsequent investigation, a witness identified Yazeed as the individual, he observed, forcing Blanchard into a vehicle against her will and then leaving with her in the vehicle. Blanchard has not been located at this time.”
The search continues for Aniah Blanchard since she was last seen on Wednesday, October 23. Her SUV was located in Montgomery on Friday, October 25.
With Yazeed’s capture, there is hope new information will reveal Aniah Blanchard’s location and answer her family, investigators, and community’s heartfelt plea to bring Aniah home.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Auburn Police Division Detective Section at 334-501-3140, Central Alabama Crime Stoppers at 334-215-STOP, or the 24-hour non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.
The reward stands at $105,000 for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for Aniah’s disappearance. The Auburn Police Department says the public has been invaluable in providing information.