Auburn community members gathered for a prayer service at Auburn United Methodist Church Monday night for Aniah Blanchard, the 19-year-old Southern Union student who was last seen on Oct. 23.
During the service, Aniah’s step-father, Walt Harris, and mother, Angela Haley-Harris, both prayed with members of the community who came to support the family.
Haley Tembarge, who spoke on behalf of the Blanchard’s family, said the family was grateful for everyone that came out and were keeping Blanchard in their thoughts.
“They’re so grateful to see everybody out and supporting Aniah and the family,” Tembarge said. “Just to know that people are still aware of the story and looking for her means the world to them.”
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During the service, members of the community prayed together and with Blanchard’s family and sang some of Blanchard’s favorite worship songs. Sharing the hope that they will find Blanchard alive and well was the focus of the evening.
“That is the main focus right now, to keep everybody hopeful that we’re going to find her alive and bring her home,” Tembarge said. “That is what the family is holding on to.”
At the end of the service, attendees broke off into groups to pray together. Some held hands and joined in prayer while others went to kneel at the altar to bring their prayers forward.
“I have never been involved in a situation where the emotions swing so quickly from hope to grief,” Tembarge said.
Tembarge read a statement approved by Blanchard’s family, thanking the community for their continued support and asking that people continue to share pictures on different platforms.
“We are looking for answers, any information that the public, police or anyone has that may be involved, please come forward,” Tembarge said. “In the meantime, you can help us by sharing her picture on all platforms.”
A known search-and-recovery group, Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recover Team, announced Monday that it’s working with investigators and will assist in the search efforts.
“I met with detectives today, and I think we’ve joined a partnership,” said Tim Miller, founder and director of Texas EquuSearch.
Miller said there are “no real leads” at the moment, but he and his team spent the day mapping and getting familiar with the area. Soon they will start a thorough search.
“Truly, we’ve got a huge area. From Auburn we’ve got 50-plus miles,” Miller said. “Many calls are coming in, and they’re filing every lead, so we’re going to go ahead and be the manpower and lead the searches.”
There are people coming in from all over the country, from Texas to Ohio to Florida, to search for Blanchard. Miller said he was contacted by the family and spoke with local law enforcement about the case.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat anything, but it doesn’t look good at the time,” Miller said. “We will be here as long as I feel as though we are being productive and that we’re being an asset to the search efforts.”
Miller said his team will be bringing in different types of technology and techniques to help map the area and search everywhere as efficiently as possible.
“I’m optimistic that we’re going to get her located,” Miller said. “I cannot promise you we will find her, but I can promise you we’re going to bring in the best resources for the job we can do.”
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