Aniah Blanchard’s father: Missing teen’s disappearance is ‘devastating’

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Aniah Blanchard’s father: Missing teen’s disappearance is ‘devastating’

Reprinted from al.com

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It’s been five days since friends and family last heard from 19-year-old Aniah Haley Blanchard, and her loved ones are desperate to find her.

“It’s devastating me,’’ Aniah’s father, Birmingham business owner Elijah Blanchard, told AL.com Monday. “It’s surreal. It does not feel real for a human being to be talked to one minute and vanish the next.”

Aniah, a Southern Union College student from Homewood, was reported missing Thursday, Oct. 24. She last communicated with a friend late Wednesday night. Police said her vehicle was seen in Thursday’s early-morning hours along South College on the Thursday, the 24th.

Her father and stepmother, Birmingham attorney Yashiba Blanchard, as well as her mother, Angela Harris, and stepfather, UFC Heavyweight fighter Walt Harris, have been pleading for information in their daughter’s disappearance.

Police on Friday recovered Aniah’s black 2017 Honda CRV from an apartment complex on the 6100 block of Boardwalk Boulevard in Montgomery around 6:15 p.m. Friday. A citizen reported the vehicle to police.

Auburn police Capt. Lorenza Dorsey said Aniah’s vehicle had been damaged sometime between the last time it was seen in Auburn and Friday night, when it was found in Montgomery.

On Monday, as part of the ongoing joint investigation with the Montgomery Police Department, authorities released a small portion of a video showing Aniah Haley Blanchard making a purchase at a convenience store located on South College Street that Wednesday night/Thursday morning just prior to her vehicle being observed traveling southbound on South College Street.

Dorsey said the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, the Department of Homeland Security, the Lee County District Attorney’s Office, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama Fusion Center and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences are assisting in the investigation.

Aniah graduated from Homewood High School. About 200 people gathered at Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood Sunday night to pray for her.

The crowd included more than 100 members of the youth group Aniah participated in throughout middle and high school, according to youth minister Robert Sturdivant. Sturdivant said Aniah is an outgoing and joyful presence in the community, and a popular member of the Trinity youth group.

“She absolutely saw this place as her haven,” Sturdivant said.

Aniah’s stepmother on Monday said the family is working to get an official reward in place, possibly from the office of Gov. Kay Ivey, and also are trying to get a widespread missing person’s alert issued under the Ashanti Alert Act which President Trump signed into law last year creating a nationwide alert system for missing, endangered adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

The law is named for Ashanti Billie, of Prince George’s County, Maryland, who disappeared from the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area in September 2017. Her body was found two weeks later in North Carolina. At 19 years old, Billie was too old for an Amber Alert, the child abduction alert system, and too young for a Silver Alert, the system to help locate seniors who are missing.

Aniah’s family has been in Auburn where a command post was set up. Her father and stepmother returned home late Sunday night to take care of immediate business needs and are heading back down to Auburn. They said they have backed off on doing their own ground searches out of concern for hurting the ongoing investigation.