UFC fighter Walt Harris spoke out for the first time this week since the disappearance of his 19-year-old stepdaughter last month and the subsequent arrest of a suspect in the case, saying in a televised interview that he believes her kidnapping was a “set up.”
During an interview with Dr. Phil on Wednesday, Harris and his wife Angela Haley-Harris spoke about the disappearance of their daughter, Aniah Blanchard, who was last seen at a convenience store on South College Street near her apartment in Auburn, Ala. on Oct. 23.
Harris said that the kidnapping did not appear to be “random," before adding that “there’s a lot that don’t make sense to us.”
“It seems like it was actually set up," he said, "and that it was something that was planned.”
Haley-Harris said that she believes that someone who knew their daughter may be the link between her and Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, the man who was arrested last week in connection with her disappearance.
“I have those thoughts. I still do,” she said when asked if she thought a friend of Blanchard’s could be involved. “I have things that we can’t, something that we can’t really discuss but there’s something that we know, a lead that they’re (investigators) working on to try to help figure that part out.”
Blanchard disappeared on Oct. 23 after she was seen on video surveillance inside a convenience store near her apartment. Yazeed was also identified in the video as being in the same store the last time she was seen alive.
According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by the Pensacola News Journal, a witness saw Yazeed “forcing Blanchard into a vehicle against her will and then leaving with her in the vehicle.”
Her 2017 Honda CR-V was found significantly damaged and abandoned at an apartment complex in Montgomery over 50 miles away from where she was last seen. Police also announced that evidence collected from the car signaled that Blanchard “was harmed and is considered to be a victim of foul play.”
“That was very difficult to hear, to know that my child has been hurt in some way but we’re trying to keep the hope that even though we know she had an injury that she is still alive,” Haley-Harris said during Wednesday’s interview.
“Until we know otherwise, we are going to keep believing that she is still alive and we are going to keep looking for her.”
Harris said he attended a hearing over the weekend where he saw Yazeed, who was charged with kidnapping in the first degree.
“Yazeed stood in front of the judge and he was read his charges and, you know, it was just him trying to be pitiful to gain a plea from the judge but it was tough to sit in there. As a father, that was one of the hardest moments of my life, to look at that man and contain myself.”
Harris said it was difficult to understand how someone with “an extensive rap sheet” would be free to walk on bond when the alleged kidnapping took place.
Auburn police said that Yazeed was out on bond for kidnapping and attempted murder charges during the time of Blanchard’s disappearance.
Harris and his wife continue to hold on to the hope that their daughter will be found.
“I love you, baby girl. We’re looking for you. We’re doing everything that we can. We’re going to get you, I promise. I won’t stop until we do. We love you,” a tearful Harris said.