New details emerged Wednesday about the disappearance of Aniah Blanchard during a preliminary hearing for the primary suspect in the case.
Ibraheem Yazeed, 30, Montgomery, appeared before Lee County Judge Russell Bush for the second time at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree kidnapping in connection to Blanchard’s disappearance.
Bush found probable cause to send Yazeed’s case to the grand jury. He also denied bail for Yazeed after hearing his motion for bond reconsideration and approved a motion to collect a DNA swab from Yazeed for evidence comparison.
“We would point out additionally, that there is DNA of a male profile found in the car (Blanchard’s), so the defendant’s DNA profile is needed for comparison,” Assistant District Attorney Garrett Saucer said in court.
The DNA will be compared to future evidence found in the investigation, Saucer said. There is currently none of Yazeed’s DNA tying him to the case, but there are still several items pending for testing from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, according to Saucer.
The witnessAuburn police were able to name Yazeed as a suspect due to an anonymous male witness who was at the Chevron convenience store at the same time as both Yazeed and Blanchard on Oct. 23.
“He said he observed Blanchard and black male, later positively identified as Ibraheem Yazeed, at the store at the same time and he observed Yazeed forcing Blanchard into her vehicle against her will and then leaving with her in that vehicle,” Auburn police detective Josh Mixon testified.
After seeing Yazeed force Blanchard into her vehicle and leave in her vehicle, the witness, who was staying next to the Chevron at the Clarion Inn, told his significant other what he had seen.
“He went back to the room and told his girlfriend — possibly wife — what he had saw and she told him that it was none of his business and to stay out of it,” testified Mixon.
Police were later able to locate the witness due to their investigation. Police tracked down every person seen on surveillance video at the Chevron convenience store, Mixon testified.
Once the witness came in to give a statement to police, he began to cry and show remorse.
“I think he was remorseful that he hadn’t come forward sooner,” Mixon testified. “He had recently lost a child in October due to a miscarriage which was a girl so he was definitely remorseful for not coming forward sooner.”
The witness was able to describe the person, who police now believe was Yazeed, force Blanchard into her vehicle.
“He described him in a camouflage kind of fluffy camouflage type jacket and reviewing security footage, that’s the only person in a two-hour period matching that description,” Mixon testified.
Police were later able to positively identify Yazeed due to numerous tips from the public once they released images of the person of interest in Blanchard’s disappearance.
Yazeed was later taken into custody in Pensacola, Florida, a confirmed he was the in the Chevron and immediately requested council, Mixon testified.
Yazeed’s attorney, Elijah Beaver, questioned Mixon about the witness and attempted to have the witness’s identity revealed. Bush ruled in favor of keeping the witness’s identity anonymous for the time being.
Yazeed saw BlanchardYazeed was already in the store when Blanchard walked in. He was making a purchase of an alcoholic beverage before looking over his shoulder to look at her, Mixon said.
“While he was getting change, he has his hand out for the change. He looks over his shoulder at her and watches her walk past and then gets his change and then looks outside of the store and then walks out,” Mixon testified.
Yazeed entered on the left side of the convenience store but exited on the right side of the store, where Blanchard’s vehicle was parked at a fuel pump, Mixon said.
However, no video surveillance was captured at the fuel pump.
“There’s one particular area over the door entrance; however, it does not capture a full view of the fuel pumps or the parking lot,” Mixon testified.
Tie to AuburnYazeed was seen coming into Auburn earlier on Oct. 23 in a red Dodge Caravan registered in his father’s name, Mixon testified. The van was later found in Montgomery.
Yazeed was also seen at the Clarion Inn on the same day that Blanchard was last seen.
“He frequented it according to employees that we spoke to there,” Mixon testified.
Bond deniedBush dismissed the motion filed by Beaver for Yazeed’s bond to be reconsidered. Beaver filed the motion last week, saying Yazeed has received death threats in the Lee County Jail. He also cited Yazeed has not been convicted of a violent crime.
“Mr. Yazeed has no convictions for prior violent criminal charges,” Beaver said in court. “We’re concerned that he’s going to spend another year or so in jail … waiting for this thing to go to a grand jury.”
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes responded to Beaver’s motion citing numerous felony charges and arrests.
“Mr. Yazeed has by count 26 prior arrests, served with eight felonies,” Hughes said in court.
Gag orderBeaver filed a motion last week asking for the court’s gag order to be upheld and to include the Blanchard’s family. Local media, including the Opelika-Auburn News, filed a motion Monday asking for the gag to be lifted. Both motions will be heard at a Dec. 4 hearing.