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Foul play now suspected in disappearance of 19-year-old college student Aniah Blanchard

AUBURN, Ala. — The disappearance of 19-year-old college student Aniah Blanchard is now being pursued as a criminal investigation in Alabama and foul play is suspected, a local prosecutor says.

“We fear for her safety and do not believe she has gone missing on her own accord,” Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes told CNN.

Blanchard is the stepdaughter of Walt Harris, 36, a heavyweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Late Wednesday, UFC President Dana White said he would contribute additional money to the reward offered hours earlier by Gov. Kay Ivey.

“To help find Aniah, I’m contributing an additional $25,000 to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators involved in the disappearance of Aniah Blanchard,” he said in a video posted to Twitter.

Blanchard communicated with a friend just before midnight on October 23 and hasn’t been heard from since, the Auburn Police Department said in a statement this week.

After receiving a tip, police located her black 2017 Honda CR-V on Friday evening at an apartment complex off the busy Atlanta Highway, in the eastern part of Montgomery.

The Honda showed damage to the front right fender and scrapes on the passenger-side door. Police said the vehicle had no damage when it was last seen Wednesday and asked anyone with information on Blanchard’s disappearance or on the damage to the SUV to contact them.

Blanchard, a black woman with a light complexion, attends Southern Union, a state community college with multiple campuses in East Alabama. She stands 5-foot-6-inches tall, weighs about 125 pounds and was last seen wearing a black dress, tan duck boots and black stockings.

Ivey tweeted: “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.”

Blanchard’s stepfather is ranked No. 10 among Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweights. In posts on Instagram and Twitter, Harris has pleaded for the public’s help in finding Blanchard.

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