FedEx driver delivering 7-yr-old’s Christmas gift, says he accidentally hit her with van, strangled her to keep her quiet

Disturbing new details in the tragic death of 7-year-old Texas girl, Athena Strand, allegedly at the hands of FedEx driver Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, are emerging, with Horner telling investigators that he hit Athena with his van, panicked, and then strangled her to keep her from telling on him.

In an arrest affidavit, Horner stated that Athena “was not seriously injured” when he accidentally hit her.

She “was alive at that time, talking to him, and told him her name was Athena,” it reads. And “she was going to tell her father” about being hit.

As BizPac Review previously reported, Athena went missing from her home in Paradise, Texas, on November 30. Her body was found two days later in Wise County. Investigators said at the time that she likely died “within an hour” after she was abducted.

Horner, who delivered a FedEx package at the time she went missing, confessed to the crime and was charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.

With the release of the affidavit, dated December 2, we now have a much clearer picture of the heartbreaking events leading to her death.

Athena’s stepmother, Elizabeth Ashley Strand, said that Athena and her step-sister were temporarily using a converted storage shed as a bedroom/living quarters while Athena’s father was renovating the main residence, located next to the shed.

Elizabeth told Athena to sort her dirty laundry and went into the main residence to start dinner. By the time dinner was ready, some 20 – 30 minutes later, Athena was gone.

After checking the property and calling family members living on the adjacent property to see if the little girl had wandered over there, Strand reportedly called 911 and an “extensive search” was launched.

After the FedEx delivery was discovered, investigators tracked down Horner, who admitted that “he had taken Athena” and said, “she was deceased.”

“The Defendant stated, when he was backing up in his FedEx truck he accidentally hit Athena with the truck, but she was not seriously injured,” the affidavit reads. “The Defendant stated, he panicked and put Athena in the van.”

Horner revealed that “he attempted to break Athena’s neck to kill her,” however, “it did not work so he strangled with his bare hands in the back of the FedEx van” because “she was going to tell her father about being hit by the FedEx truck the Defendant was operating.”

Investigators asked Horner if he’d take them to where he disposed of Athena’s body, and he “directed investigators” to Boyd, Texas, where he had left the little girl “in the water.”

The moment Horner grabbed Athena was caught on the FedEx van’s video.

“An FBI employee was able to view the video,” the warrant reads. “The FBI employee found that the driver had taken a young girl who was visually similar to Athena in his van. The driver was seen on video talking to her in the van.”

As if the story could get any more tragic, Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, told the press on Thursday that Horner was delivering a You Can Be Anything Barbie to the house when he hit her, according to the Daily Mail. The doll was to be her little girl’s Christmas present.

“Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be — and this present, ordered out of innocence and love, is one she will never receive,” Gandy said.

Horner is presently being held at the Wise County Law Enforcement Center on a $1.5 million bond, WFAA reports.

“He is in a single cell by himself,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told the outlet. “Just not near booking.”

“Because of the age of that child and because it was an abduction, we are going to [ask the district attorney to] pursue the death penalty,” he added.

“I will spend the rest of my life fighting for her so that no other family will endure such unbearable pain and grief,” Gandy said on Thursday. “A monster attempted to take Athena’s voice — but we are her voice. Screening and hiring policies must be put into place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s footsteps.”

Melissa Fine


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