Suspect arrested in kidnapping of UFC fighter’s stepdaughter

Aniah Blanchard's whereabouts remain unknown.

This Nov. 8, 2019 booking photo released by Escambia County Jail shows Ibraheem Yazeed in Pensacola, Fla. Authorities have arrested the man wanted in the disappearance of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris' stepdaughter. Jail records show Yazeed was arrested in Florida and booked into the Escambia County Jail early Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. He's charged with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was last seen at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama, on Oct. 23. (Escambia County Jail via AP)
Ibraheem Yazeed's Nov. 8 booking photo. –Escambia County Jail via AP

A man wanted in the disappearance of UFC fighter Walt Harris’ stepdaughter has been apprehended in Florida, but the whereabouts of the woman he’s accused of abducting remained a mystery Friday.

Ibraheem Yazeed was arrested and booked into the Escambia County Jail early Friday. Jail records show he’s being held as a fugitive after being charged in Alabama with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard. She was last seen at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama, on Oct. 23.

Blanchard, a student at Southern Union State Community College, was reported missing the next day. Her car was later found abandoned in Montgomery, more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away. Police said the car was damaged and contained evidence that Blanchard had been harmed.


‘‘I am prayerful that the Lord touches this young man’s heart so he will be honest and truthful and tell the authorities where our daughter is located,’’ Blanchard’s stepmother, Yashiba Blanchard, told ‘‘I feel as if the Lord has heard our cries and the community’s cries for help with finding our daughter.’’

Aniah Blanchard. —Auburn Police Division via AP

Yazeed, 29, was already known to authorities: He was freed from an Alabama jail in February after prosecutors said he beat a man unconscious and ‘‘near death’’ in a vicious robbery, court records show. He faces attempted murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery in that earlier case.

Prosecutors say Yazeed was armed with a handgun in January when he pummeled William Joseph Fuller, Alabama court records state. He and two other people also stole Fuller’s Rolex watch, rifle, handgun, wallet, bank card, and cash, authorities said.

Yazeed was out on bond at the time of Blanchard’s disappearance.

In Florida, deputies were called by U.S. marshals to help them with the arrest at about 11 p.m. on Thursday alongside the Pine Forest exit on Interstate 10, Escambia Sheriff’s Maj. Andrew Hobbs said.

‘‘When we arrived, the suspect fled the area, but he was located by Escambia sheriff’s officers and marshals in a wooded area near the exit,’’ Hobbs said.


Yazeed left the scene in an ambulance. His jail booking photo shows him with a swollen left eye.

‘‘The marshals were the ones who handcuffed him and took him into custody; you’d have to contact them about any injuries he received,’’ Hobbs said.

The Associated Press’ request for information left with the Pensacola office of the U.S. Marshals Service wasn’t immediately returned early Friday.

Yazeed’s run-ins with Alabama law enforcers date back almost a decade.

In 2012, he was accused of ramming his vehicle into a Montgomery police car at a Chevron station and charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer. He was fleeing from the two Montgomery officers at the time and plowed into the squad car ‘‘as the officers exited their vehicle in an attempt to kill the officers,’’ a court affidavit states.

In a letter to the judge handling that case, Yazeed’s mother said ‘‘he felt afraid and didn’t know how to handle or control the vehicle due to so many fired gunshots towards the vehicle.’’

Yazeed spent months in the county jail before a grand jury determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

In her letter, his mother wrote that ‘‘I believe he is suffering some type of mental disorder.’’ She said her son had suffered a very bad head injury as a child, and that he didn’t always use good judgment. She also asked that his juvenile records be kept sealed.

Yazeed also wrote to court officials from the county jail, pleading for his release and saying it would alleviate jail overcrowding and ‘‘and save taxpayers a lot of money.’’

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