The Murder of Athena Strand
On November 30, 2022, seven-year-old Athena Strand was kidnapped from the yard of her father’s home in Paradise, Texas, and allegedly murdered by a FedEx driver named Tanner Horner.
Early on in the investigation into Athena’s disappearance, law enforcement discovered that a FedEx package had been delivered to the Strand home around the time that Athena went missing. Further investigation led the police to FedEx driver Tanner Horner. He was arrested on December 2nd and charged with aggravated kidnapping and murder.
That same day, Athena’s body was located along the Trinity River, near the town of Boyd, roughly nine miles away from her home in Paradise.
According to the 31-year-old Horner’s version of events, he had accidentally backed his delivery van into Athena, causing her minor injuries. However, he began to panic at this point, fearing what would happen when she told her father, and took the girl into the back of the vehicle where he strangled her to death.
Horner's confession came shortly after he was taken into custody, but many have expressed skepticism over his version of events, suspecting that this was actually a crime of opportunity, especially since it became known that he was accused of rape three years ago. It was also recently announced that Horner has been charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child under 17 in Tarrant County.
These charges, unrelated to Athena’s kidnapping and murder, relate to incidents which occurred back in 2013. However, it’s unclear if each of these incidents involve the same victim. Horner is set to have his first court appearance related to these charges on January 5, 2023.
The Brightest, Happiest Soul
Athena Strand, a little girl who adored her younger sisters, loved the color pink, and who dreamt of becoming a Viking Princess one day, is described by her mother, 26-year-old Maitlyn Gandy, this way:
“Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent, and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet.”
She also heartbreakingly spoke of the toll that this unimaginable loss is taking on their family, including how Rilyn, Athena’s three-year-old sister, doesn’t understand why her “sissy” hasn’t come home yet. “It’s a long time for her to go without seeing her sister,” Gandy explained.
Of her daughter’s accused killer, Gandy had this to say:
“If I could sit down in front of him, I would tell him that he is nothing, but that Athena is absolutely everything—and I will make sure that everybody in the world knows that he is nothing and that she is everything.”
Jacob Strand, Athena’s father, is suing not only Tanner Horner but also FedEx and its contracting company, Big Topspin Inc., stating that the latter two did an insufficient amount of research into Horner’s background before hiring him.
The family of Athena Strand hopes that Horner will face the death penalty.
A Sad Goodbye
On December 9, 2022, a private funeral service was held for Athena. Friends and family gathered to say goodbye to the beloved little girl who was taken from them far too soon.
The service included a custom pink casket as well as her favorite Disney songs, such as "Let it Go" from the movie "Frozen."
Maitlyn Gandy shared that her daughter was to be cremated and that Athena’s urn would be coming home with her, stating that: “I’m not anywhere close to letting my baby go.”
Alleged Killer Being Held
Tanner Lynn Horner is currently being held at the Wise County Jail on a $1.5 million bond.
"Delivery driver charged with the murder of a 7-year-old in Texas," Rebekah Riess, CNN, December 22, 2022
"Missing 7-year-old North Texas girl found dead; FedEx driver arrested", Faris Tanyos, CBS News, December 3, 2022
"Tanner Horner Reveals Why He Killed Athena Strand", Simone Carter, Newsweek, December 9, 2022
"Tanner Horner Accused of Rape Years Before Allegedly Killing Athena Strand", Thomas Kika, Newsweek, December 5, 2022
"Exclusive: Sheriff says kidnapping, murder of Athena Strand was a 'crime of opportunity'," Amy McDaniel, Fort Worth Star Telegram, December 8, 2022
"Family of Texas girl allegedly killed by a delivery driver sues FedEx and the driver's employer," Andy Rose, CNN, December 14, 2022