Human remains found in Macon County, Alabama have been positively identified as 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard.
Auburn Police announced the update Wednesday after recovering the remains earlier this week that forensic evidence has concluded the body they discovered was Blanchard, who went missing on Oct. 23.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has positively identified the remains as those of Aniah Haley Blanchard,” Auburn Police said in a statement released on Wednesday. “At this point, the case will move forward as a homicide investigation, and additional charges are forthcoming.”
Blanchard, who is the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris, had been missing for over a month as police searched for answers about her disappearance.
Three arrests have been made related to the case including 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed, who was charged with first-degree kidnapping after an eyewitness identified him as the person he saw force Blanchard into her vehicle against her will on the night of Oct. 23 outside a Chevron station in Auburn, Ala.
Surveillance footage had captured both Blanchard and Yazeed in the store at the same time, which led police to search for him. Yazeed was already out on bond for separate charges including kidnapping and attempted murder.
Two days later, Blanchard’s 2017 Honda CR-V was recovered at an apartment complex in Montgomery, Ala. with evidence showing a “life threatening” amount of blood inside that led authorities to believe the Southern Union Community College student had been harmed and was the victim of foul play.
The search for Blanchard continued after police captured Yazeed with additional charges of first degree kidnapping filed against Antwain “Squirmy” Fisher. A third suspect named David Johnson Jr. was arrested and charged with hindering prosecution in the case.
Harris had asked for help searching for his missing stepdaughter after she first disappeared in late October. He was initially scheduled to compete at UFC on ESPN 7 on Dec. 7 but he dropped out of his fight to focus on his family as they continued to search for Blanchard.
Earlier this week, police announced that human remains had been found that they believed were Blanchard and now the body has been identified.
“I am heartbroken for the family of Aniah Blanchard,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. “Like Alabamians across our state, I was praying for a much different outcome. I will be keeping them in my prayers and ask the people of Alabama to continue to do so as well.
“During this holiday season, it is easy to get distracted in the hustle and bustle, but I urge us all to remember those that are hurting. I appreciate the diligence of the Auburn Police Division, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the many volunteers who were searching for Aniah. She is indeed loved and will be remembered by us all.”