Dec. 3 (UPI) — Prosecutors in Alabama said Monday that they have upgraded the charges against a 30-year-old man from kidnapping to capital murder in connection to the death of college student Aniah Blanchard after an autopsy revealed she was shot to death.
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said they will seek the death penalty for Ibraheem Yazeed, the lead suspect in the case who was arrested in early November and charged with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance of Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.
“There was an autopsy done and the medical examiner ruled that Aniah Blanchard was killed in the manner of homicide,” Hughes said in a press conference. “The cause of death was a gunshot wound.”
He did not elaborate on if she was shot more than once or the location of the wound, only that it has resulted in the decision to upgrade Yazeed’s charges.
“As a result of the determination by the medical examiner’s office, we are now upgrading the charges from kidnapping in the first degree to capital murder, and in this case, capital murder is the intentional murder during a kidnapping, and we will also be seeking the death penalty against Mr. Yazeed,” he said.
Blanchard, 19, was reported missing Oct. 24. She was last seen the day before in CCTV footage making a purchase at an Auburn, Ala., convenience store.
Her remains were found last Monday in a wooded area in Shorter, some 25 miles from Montgomery, after authorities received a tip concerning the discovery of a body.
Yazeed was charged with kidnapping after analysis of the evidence showed that he was in the same location as Blanchard when she was last seen and was witnessed forcing Blanchard into a vehicle. At the time of his arrest, Yazeed was out on bond for kidnapping and attempted murder charges.
Two other men were charged in connection to her kidnapping, though Hughes did not comment if their charges had been altered, only that Yazeed has been charged with murder.
“We have determined that Mr. Yazeed is the lone person responsible in this case for abducting Aniah Blanchard, he is the lone person responsible for Aniah’s murder,” he said.
Yazeed remains in Lee County Jail without bond, he added.
“This case has absolutely shaken our community to its core,” Hughes said, adding that the process for Blanchard’s family to see justice may be slow, “but I can promise it will be thorough.”
“It is my intention that the response to this horrific crime be a warning to anyone, anyone who believes they want to come to Lee County and engage in violent criminal behavior. They will certainly be dealt with, and the consequences will be severe,” he said.