COLLEGE STUDENT ANIAH BLANCHARD HAD A DEEP FEAR OF BEING KIDNAPPED – WHEN SHE DISAPPEARS, UFC FIGHTER WALT HARRIS BATTLES FOR JUSTICE FOR HIS STEPDAUGHTER
“48 Hours” Investigates in “Fighting For Aniah”
Saturday, March 6 10:00 PM
Aniah Blanchard was a 19-year-old college student and the step-daughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris when she disappeared and was murdered in Alabama in the fall of 2019. Now, her grief-stricken parents are fighting to get a new law passed because her alleged killer was out on the streets even though he was arrested for kidnapping and beating two men earlier that year.
CBS News special correspondent James Brown and 48 HOURS investigate the shocking disappearance and murder of Aniah Blanchard, and her family’s quest for justice in “Fighting for Aniah” to be broadcast Saturday, March 6 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Blanchard’s disappearance captured the nation as her family, the local community and law enforcement searched for more than a month to find her, and to uncover the truth of what happened to her that fateful night.
Blanchard was widely known for always putting other people before herself, but she also had a deep-seated fear of being kidnapped and harmed.
“Since the day I met Aniah, she always told me that that was her biggest fear … to be kidnapped or murdered,” her roommate, Sarah O’Brien, says.
On Oct. 23, 2019, Aniah vanished without a trace, after she dropped her brother off in Auburn, where they both attended college, and she texted her roommate that she was nearly home – only minutes away. “Just the worst feeling ever to not know where your child is,” Blanchard’s mother, Angela Harris, tells James Brown.
It would take two agonizing days before Aniah’s badly damaged car was found 55 miles away, and a blood-soaked seat and a bullet in the door told investigators that Aniah’s worst fear had likely became a tragic reality.
It would take days more before police discovered video of Aniah on the night she vanished at a gas station near her home. And inside the convenience store at the station was Ibraheem Yazeed, a man with a lengthy arrest record who was free on bond, and later charged with murdering Aniah. “How is this person free to walk into a gas station …when my best friend is there?’ asks O’Brien.
Yazeed pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. And the Harrises would have to wait several agonizing weeks before their beloved Aniah’s remains were found in Macon County woods.
“How someone could actually do those things to my daughter,” says Angela Harris, “so traumatizing to think about what she went through.”
Angela and Walt Harris were in court when Aniah’s alleged killer appeared.
“I wanted to climb across the barricade. … It just made me really angry, because he was just kind of smug,” Walt Harris, then the ninth ranked UFC heavyweight, told James Brown.
“It was almost like, ‘Yeah, you’re tough, I’m tough, too,’” Harris says, “like he was challenging me almost.”
While the pandemic has slowed the criminal case, Angela and Walt have been campaigning for “Aniah’s Law,” which, if enacted, would help keep those accused of serious offenses off the streets. The proposal has been gaining support in the Alabama legislature.
Brown and 48 HOURS report the story through interviews with Blanchard’s family, close friends and more. 48 HOURS: “Fighting for Aniah” is produced by Murray Weiss. Mead Stone is the producer-editor. Iris Carreras is the associate producer. Greg McLaughlin and Phil Tangel are the editors. Patti Aronofsky and Alvin Patrick are the senior producers. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.