Athena Strand, the 7-year-old girl who had disappeared from the driveway of her Texas home and was reported missing earlier this week was found dead.
Her lifeless body was recovered Friday evening, according to police representatives.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said at a news conference, “It hurts our hearts to know that child died. It’s one of the toughest investigations that I’ve been involved in because it’s a child. And anytime there’s a child that dies, it just hits you in your heart.”
The search for Athena was an excessive one. Sadly, it ended tragically and officials believe the girl was killed within an hour of her kidnapping.
The person charged for this monstrous case is 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner, driver working for FedEx. At the moment, he is being held in Wise County jail on capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges. The bond has been set at $1.5 million.
Allegedly, it was an anonymous tip which led authorities to Horner, who is believed to have been delivering some goods to the Strands when he spotted the girl.
Maitlyn Presley Gandy, Athena’s devastated mother, wrote in a Facebook post that her girl was taken from her family by “a sick, cruel monster for absolutely no reason.”
Further, this heartbroken mom wrote, “I cannot describe the pain and absolute anger I feel. Missing her doesn’t cover how I feel,” along with a video of Athena when she was 3. “I want the world to know my baby, my first baby, my first true love, the reason I breathe.”
“Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent, and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet. I don’t want her to be the girl known as the one murdered and discarded by a monster,” she added. “I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me. I want everyone to know her face and her voice and just how wonderful of a person she is.”
Authorities revealed that the girl’s body has been transferred to the medical examiner’s office as the case of her death remains under investigation. Further, it has been revealed that Horner didn’t know Athena or her family at the time he abducted her and later killed her.
Gandy expressed her gratitude to everyone who was involved in the search of her daughter, who she said dreamed of becoming a Viking princess with tattoos, just like those of her dad, and loved wearing pink.
“As a mother, I know no one is as broken as I am…
“It takes a special kind of person and whether a child is yours or not, working crime scenes involving children are hard,” she added. “Thank you for finding my baby. I know everyone wishes this would have ended differently.”
FedEx, the company Horner worked for, issued a statement regarding the tragedy. “Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding this tragic event. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time, and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities,” and directed further questions to law enforcement.
Rest in peace little girl, you will never be forgotten.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Athena’s family during these difficult times of grief and sorrow.
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