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A 19-year-old college student and stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris, Aniah Blanchard, was allegedly murdered in 2019 in Alabama by a man out on bond for kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder. Now, her parents are fighting for a law to keep those accused of serious offenses off the streets. James Brown gives "CBS This Morning" a preview of the case, airing on "48 Hours" Saturday.
- This week's "48 Hours" investigates the killing of a top-ranked UFC fighter's stepdaughter after her disappearance in 2019. College student Aniah Blanchard was last seen at an Alabama gas station, and her alleged killer was a man with a long arrest record out on bond. Now her parents, who had to wait weeks to learn Aniah's fate, are fighting for justice. CBS News special correspondent James Brown spoke with the family.
JAMES BROWN: These are the last images of Aniah Blanchard, at a gas station in Auburn near her apartment.
ANGELA HARRIS: Just the worst feeling ever.
JAMES BROWN: Aniah's mother Angela Harris and her stepfather, UFC fighter Walt Harris were frantic.
WALT HARRIS: We drove my truck in backwoods. We were all in people's yards.
JAMES BROWN: Aniah's car, which was badly damaged, was found 55 miles away. Investigators say a blood-soaked passenger seat and a bullet hole in the door tell the story of what happened to Aniah that night.
ANGELA HARRIS: So traumatizing to think about what she went through.
JAMES BROWN: Authorities believe Aniah ran into Ibraheem Yazeed when she stopped at the gas station. Yazeed in a man with a lengthy arrest record, and he had been charged earlier that year with robbing and beating two people. In spite of those serious charges, Yazeed was free on bond. Aniah's college roommate, Sarah O'Brien.
SARAH O'BRIEN: How is this person free to walk into a gas station? How is he in the same gas station as my best friend?
JAMES BROWN: But Yazeed maintains his innocence. The Harrises were committed to facing Yazeed whenever he appeared in court.
JAMES BROWN: You see him, Mr. Yazeed, looking back at you guys. Walt?
WALT HARRIS: I remember shaking. I wanted to climb across the barricade.
JAMES BROWN: It took all of Walt's training in the ring and Angela's steady hand to keep him from ripping into Yazeed.
WALT HARRIS: She grabbed me and she said, "Just breathe," and I just started trying to hear her voice.
JAMES BROWN: Angela how did you stay composed?
ANGELA HARRIS: I wanted him to know that I'm representing my daughter, you don't scare me, and that I'm not going anywhere. We're right here, and we're going to represent our daughter, and we're going to fight.
- Wow. James Brown joins us now. JB, good morning. We're all here wondering how Yazeed was even out and in that gas station at that time. What actions are the Harris family taking now?
JAMES BROWN: Coattailing on that very question there, Tony, right now there's broad political and legislative support for Aniah's law, which mom Angela, a feisty and tough woman indeed, has been fighting for. It has passed the state house. It goes now to the Senate, and if it does, then it'll go to a public vote to keep violent offenders off the streets.
- You know, this is the kind of thing that rips through a family and rips through people's lives. How will it affect the career of Walt Harris, do you think?
JAMES BROWN: You know, you use the words "rip through," and that's exactly what's happening. Tony, we can only imagine what the family is feeling and Walt instantly quit fighting, of course, once that tragedy took place. But there were two things that happened. One, he knew that Aniah was his biggest fan. And two, he recently had a dream where she hugged him, and she encouraged him to get back in the ring, which he did recently and apparently is going to continue his career. But you can only imagine what's happening internally with that, especially in a tough sport like UFC fighting. Getting in an octagon, that is not for the faint of heart, Tony.
- You can say that again, JB. Thank you very much. And you can see JB's full report, "Fighting for Aniah," on "48 Hours" tomorrow at 10:00/9:00 Central right here on CBS.
- I still remember that story, and I think it must be so haunting for the family to see the last video of her in the store where she meets the man who ultimately took her life. It's-- it's heartbreaking to see.
- For Walt to sit there in the courtroom, though, and be still--
- Exactly, exactly.
- Knowing what happened.
- I can't imagine it.
- Boy, thinking about them.