Authorities say Tanner Lynn Horner, a 31-year-old contract FedEx driver, confessed to abducting and killing the missing girl Wednesday afternoon.
PARADISE, Texas — The body of 7-year-old Athena Strand has been found, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said at a press conference on Friday night, and a suspect is in custody.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, confessed to police to abducting and killing Athena Wednesday afternoon, Akin said.
Akin said Horner, who was working as a contract FedEx truck driver, had been delivering a package to Athena’s family home when she was allegedly abducted.
Akin said Horner is being charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. He is booked into the Wise County Jail and his bond at this time is $1.5 million.
“It’s one of the toughest investigations I’ve ever been involved in because it’s a child,” Akin said. “Any time there’s a child that dies, it just hits you in your heart. You compare that child to your own children when they were at that age.”
An AMBER Alert for Athena was issued Thursday, a day after she first went missing.
Her body was found roughly 6 miles southeast of Boyd. A large police presence was seen at a stretch of County Road 4599 Friday evening, one of three locations Horner had sent police to before Athena was found.
Wise made the announcement during a 10 p.m. press conference, and said the investigation had only closed a few hours beforehand. They also said FedEx aided in the investigation on Friday.
Watch the press conference in full below:
FBI Acting Agent in Charge Jim Dwyer said authorities believe Athena died only about an hour after being abducted based on digital evidence and statements gathered while interviewing Horner.
They said they had known that a FedEx driver visited the house the day Athena went missing but that the investigation pointed to Horner after a tip and good police work.
Horner is the lone suspect authorities believe responsible in the case, Akin said.
He did not have any relation or connection to the family.
“They’re devastated,” Akin said about the family’s reaction to Athena’s death.
“They’re angry because of what happened — a precious child taken from their lives.”
Horner is from Lake Worth. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of Athena’s death. A vigil will be held at First Baptist Church of Cottondale to celebrate the life of Athena Strand on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. Athena Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, shared this GoFundMe fundraiser with WFAA.
FedEx released the following statement on Saturday:
“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. At this time, any further questions should be directed to law enforcement.”
FedEx also released this statement on Twitter on Saturday morning:
“Our thoughts are with the family of Athena Strand during this most difficult time. Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event. We continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities.”
FedEx released another statement when asked about their hiring policies and vetting process for their drivers:
“FedEx Ground contracts with independent businesses that provide package pickup and delivery services using their own employees, vehicles and equipment,” the statement reads. “The employees of these service provider companies are subject to criminal history background checks as part of the driver eligibility process. Safety is our highest priority, not only throughout our operations, but within the communities we serve.”