On Friday, December 2, police in Texas arrested and charged a FedEx driver with the kidnapping and subsequent murder of a seven-year-old girl abducted from her driveway of her North Texas home.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said Friday during a press conference that Athena Strand, 7, was kidnapped and murdered by Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, from her home in Paradise, Texas, when he was delivering a package to the house.
Sheriff Akin said it was one of his career’s most challenging and saddening investigations because it involved a child’s death.
Police recovered Athena’s body on Friday evening, two days after her stepmother reported her missing. According to Sheriff Akin, authorities believe the child died within one hour of her abduction.
Authorities conducted extensive searches of the local area, but they proved futile. They found Athena’s body on Friday evening, about 10 miles from her house.
Tanner Horner is held at the Wise County jail after authorities said he confessed to kidnapping and killing the girl. The Wise County jail website shows that police charged Horner with capital murder of someone under ten years and aggravated kidnapping, with his bond set at $1.5 million.
Authorities identified Horner as a contract driver working for FedEx, and he was allegedly making a delivery to the girl’s home at the time of her disappearance.
During an earlier press conference on Friday, Sheriff Akin said that Athena disappeared on Wednesday, November 30, after coming home from school. He said that the police received a tip that helped them determine that the FedEx driver kidnapped Athena from her driveway.
According to the Sheriff, Horner did not previously know the girl or her family, and it was likely a crime of opportunity.
Maitlyn Gandy, Athena’s mother, wrote on Facebook on Saturday that a “sick and cruel monster” took her daughter from her for absolutely no reason. She mourned her child’s death and expressed her anger and pain. She described the child as a beautiful, innocent, kind, and bright person who was always happy.
Gandy said Athena’s dream was to grow up and become a Viking princess with lots of tattoos like her father.
Police did not divulge a possible motive for the cruel murder, and they said they had transferred the girl’s body to the medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death.
According to Horner’s social media accounts, he is a musician and has previously worked for Uber as a driver. Uber said he had not driven for the app in several months, and they banned him from the platform.
FedEx released a statement expressing its shock and sorrow at the tragedy. They sent their sympathies to the family of the murdered girl and said they were cooperating with the authorities investigating the matter.
Horner’s neighbors near Lake Worth reported that they would never have expected him to be involved in such an awful tragedy.