The search is on for Aniah Haley Blanchard as cops have officially declared her absence a criminal investigation.
Blanchard is the stepdaughter of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight Walt Harris, and at this point in the investigation, officials are offering a reward for information about her whereabouts. According to The Associated Press, the state of Alabama offered $5,000 on Wednesday for any information about the missing 19-year-old. They said they hope the reward will lead to an arrest and a conviction related to the teen’s disappearance.
Cops didn’t initially suspect criminal intent, but now they’re calling foul play with her disappearance. “This is a criminal investigation, obviously we’re approaching it as such,” Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said. He further told CNN, “We fear for her safety and do not believe she has gone missing on her own accord.”
The Alabama teen is a student at the Southern Union State Community College, and she was last seen a week ago in Auburn. Cops later discovered her damaged car at an apartment complex in Montgomery almost 55 miles (90 kilometers) away. According to MMA News, the vehicle was a 2017 Honda CRV and it wasn’t damaged before Blanchard went missing.
Officials released a video on Monday showing Blanchard in a store in Auburn the day she was last seen. An spokesperson for the Auburn police, Capt. Lorenza Dorsey, said investigators aren’t eliminating any possible scenarios in the search for Blanchard. “We’re hopeful, but we’re extremely concerned because of the amount of time that’s now passed,” Dorsey said.
Harris and other relatives have been pleading for info about Blanchard’ whereabouts. Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama released a statement on Twitter saying:
“I encourage anyone with information about the whereabouts of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was last seen Oct. 23, to please call *HP or 9-1-1. We continue to pray for Aniah & her family as law enforcement officials work to bring her home.”
The president of the UFC, Dana White, also upped Alabama’s reward for info about Blanchard by offering $25,000 to anyone with important details. He posted a video to social media saying, “If you have any information on Aniah’s whereabouts, please call *HP or 911 immediately and please share this message and keep Aniah, Walt, and their entire family in your thoughts.”