The total reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators involved in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard has increased to $80,000, after Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Athlete Jon Jones and an anonymous family from Homewood, Alabama added $25,000 each.
Previously, UFC president Dana White announced the offering of a $25,000 contribution to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s $5,000 reward.
Blanchard, the step-daughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris, attends community college in Auburn and was last seen on Oct. 23 at a store in the city.
If anyone has any information on Aniah Blanchard, please call *HP or 911 immediately. pic.twitter.com/v5xPpIVZHq
— UFC (@ufc) October 31, 2019
White said in a clip on social media: “To help find Aniah, I’m contributing an additional $25,000 to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s $5,000.”
“Please keep Aniah, Walt, and their entire family in your thoughts.”
I encourage anyone with information about the whereabouts of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was last seen Oct. 23, to please call *HP or 9-1-1. We continue to pray for Aniah & her family as law enforcement officials work to bring her home. @ALEAprotects @CityofAuburnAL pic.twitter.com/YT8683L9B9
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) October 30, 2019
Aniah’s family have pleaded for her safe return.
“We know our daughter is scared. We know she wants to come home. As a family we are trying to just stay together. Stay prayed up. Making sure we have hope. We are real hopeful,” Elijah Blanchard, the teen’s father, told WBRC .
In a message to his daughter and her potential kidnapper, Blanchard added: “We all are trying our best to do what we can to find you. And if you have my daughter, know she is loved. I just ask you to let her go.”
“Just keep your eyes out, wherever you are,” Aniah’s mother Angela Harris told CBS 42 . “Everywhere you are, just look for Aniah.”
“We just want our daughter home,” she said. “We want her found as soon as possible.”
The pleas for help came as the Auburn Police Department released a short video clip from a surveillance camera at an Auburn store showing Aniah on Oct. 23.
She was wearing a long-sleeve black-and-white dress and leggings. The store, a Chevron gas station, is located at the intersection of South College Street and East University Drive.
Shortly after the footage was recorded, Aniah’s vehicle, a 2017 Honda CR-V, was seen going southbound on South College Street, police said.
Officers found the vehicle late Friday at an apartment complex in Montgomery, on Atlanta Highway. The vehicle was damaged on the front passenger side sometime between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25.
Auburn Police Chief Paul Register told CBS 42 that it was concerning such a long time had passed without word from the missing teen.
Aniah was described as a black female with brown hair and brown eyes, standing 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 125 pounds.
In an Oct. 30 press conference, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said although officers do not have major evidence of foul play, the situation is being investigated as a foul play incident.
“That’s just the practical way to approach it to make sure it gets the attention it gets,” Hughes said.
Dozens of community members and Auburn University students gathered at a vigil on Samford Lawn in Auburn on Wednesday night, praying for the 19-year-old’s safe return.
“It really means a lot to us as parents to see the multitude of support that we are receiving,” Aniah’s father told WSFA 12. “She had a smile that would just attract anyone. At this time I’m just asking everybody to continue to pray, continue to post, social media has been excellent. And just continue to help us find our daughter because she is very much missed.”
The teen’s mother added: “It’s overwhelming, but I’ll tell you Aniah is a very special girl and she loved everybody and so caring. I think they know that in their heart, man, that girl, she’s a special girl and we need to get her home.”
Along with Auburn Police, the investigation into Aniah’s disappearance is being conducted by the Montgomery Police Department, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Lee County District Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department,Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama Fusion Center, and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. The task force in charge of the investigation comprises of around 60 investigators.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Auburn Police Division Detective Section at 334-501-3140, the anonymous tip line at 334-246-1391, or the 24-hour non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.