A FedEx driver is under arrest and a Texas community heartbroken after the body of a 7-year-old girl was found two days after she vanished.
Athena Strand disappeared from her Paradise home Wednesday, sparking a frantic hunt that ended in tragedy. Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, a contract driver for FedEx who had delivered a package to the home, confessed after being charged kidnapping and killing the child, police said.
“We’re just sad it didn’t end the way that we hoped that it would end,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said at a Friday night news conference.
Authorities believe Athena was killed within an hour of her abduction.
Horner was charged with aggravated kidnapping and capital murder and held on $1.5 million bond. Police believe Horner had no connection to the family and the horrific crime appears to be random.
Akin said Athena was dropped off her home after school at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. She had what was described as an argument with her stepmother and came outside, where investigators believe she was abducted from her family’s driveway. Her stepmother reported her missing at 6:40 p.m. after she couldn’t find her.
Athena’s father was away on a hunting trip, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Wise County Sheriff’s officers worked with Texas Rangers, and FBI agents, quickly zeroing in on Horner following a tip, Akin said. Athena’s body was found about 10 miles from the home after hundreds of volunteers joined the effort.
“It’s one of the toughest investigations that I’ve been involved in,” Akin said. “Anytime there’s a child that dies, it just hits you in your heart,” the sheriff said. “You compare that child to your own children when they were that age, and it just takes the wind out of your sails.”
Horner has been an Uber driver, is a musician, and graduated from Azle High School, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It does not appear that he had a prior criminal record. Initial reports said he lives in Lake Worth, but that community’s police chief, J.T. Manoushagian, said property records show the suspect lives inside the Fort Worth city limits.
In a statement released Friday night, FedEx expressed sorrow and shock over the unspeakable crime.
“Words cannot describe our shock at the reports surrounding this tragic event,” read the statement. “First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time.”