Memorial service held for Aniah Blanchard in Alabama to remember slain teen's 'light'

In lieu of flowers, Blanchard's family asks guests to donate to charities.

December 21, 2019, 4:07 PM

A memorial service was held for Aniah Blanchard on Saturday in Alabama, where relatives and loved ones remembered the "light" she brought to their lives.

The ceremony at the Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham was a "celebration of life."

The church was filled with dozens of Blanchard's family, friends and members of her hometown of Homewood, where she attended their public schools and played high school softball.

Most of the mourners wore Blanchard's favorite color, baby blue, which "fit her personality -- bright, big and vast as the ocean," a member of Homewood High School's Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps said during their alternated flag-folding ceremony in her honor.

"It's easy for me to talk about Aniah, she is my mini-me...I gave birth to her on my birthday," said Blanchard's heartbroken mother Angela Haley Harris. "She is the greatest gift to me."

"This memorial service is a celebration of Aniah’s life and to commemorate who Aniah was and the impact her life and 'light' is having on the entire world," according to the Facebook event page created for the service.

"Aniah was light, she made you feel okay when you look in her eyes," said Noah Wail, Blanchard's godbrother.

"She was my person I would talk to when I needed someone," he added, wiping away a tear before playing a guitar tribute to the Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts The Most."

Blanchard was studying early childhood education at Southern Union College with hopes of transferring to Auburn University.

"Aniah had a light that you wanted to be around. The light she had every day of her life is still here and is still being shared," said Hannah Haley, Blanchard's cousin.

"Aniah is my biggest fan. She would always tell me when it came to my career it will be okay, you gotta keep going," said Walt Harris, Blanchard's stepfather and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter. "So now I have to go strong for the other kids...Glad to have her in my life and how she had an impact on my life."

Amy Letson, one of Blanchard's softball coaches, shared an anecdote of that showed "Aniah's beautiful spirit." After a game, Blanchard told the losing team that "she was proud of them and she could tell they worked very hard," Letson recalled.

"Together we learned to work together, work hard and be kind to others," read Blanchard's younger sister, Aylah, with her two older brothers by her side. "We are so happy you are our sissy."

Bill Cleveland, superintendent of Homewood Public Schools, announced establishing a scholarship that will be made in Blanchard's honor to continue the her legacy.

The family requested that in lieu of flowers, all donations be made in Blanchard's name to: The Texas Equusearch Group, Children’s Hospital of Alabama or the Birmingham Human Society, in honor of her beloved dog “Blue.”

Throughout the over two-hour service, dozens of photographs from Blanchard's life were displayed in a slideshow along with videos of her smile that brought comfort and peace, mourners said.

Aniah Haley Blanchard in an undated photo.
Auburn Police Department

Blanchard was last seen at a convenience store in Auburn, Alabama, on Oct. 23. She was allegedly abducted by Ibraheem Yazeed, who authorities say shot her when she "went for the gun," according to court documents.

The 19-year-old's body was found shot to death on Nov. 25, approximately 36 miles away in a wooded area in Shorter.

A tipster led police to Yazeed, who was in Pensacola, Florida, authorities said. He was already out on $295,000 bond for a separate kidnapping case from January in Montgomery, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Yazeed, 30, is being charged with two counts of capital murder charges in connection with Blanchard's death. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

David Johnson Jr., 63, and Antwon Fisher, 35, were also charged in connection to Blanchard's murder, though Fisher's charges were dropped this week because of "legal and jurisdictional grounds," Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes confirmed to ABC News on Saturday.

Johnson Jr., 63, is charged with hindering prosecution.

"The investigation into the murder of Aniah Blanchard is still ongoing and we will continue to evaluate and exhaust all leads in the pursuit of justice for Aniah and her family,” Hughes said.