Watch CBS News

Missing 7-year-old North Texas girl found dead; FedEx driver arrested

A 7-year-old girl who went missing earlier this week from her North Texas home — prompting an Amber Alert — has been found dead, authorities announced Friday. A FedEx driver has been arrested on kidnapping and murder charges.

Athena Strand had disappeared Wednesday evening from her father's home in Paradise, Texas, CBS DFW reported, prompting a massive multiagency search involving hundreds of volunteers. 

Her body was located Friday evening thanks to a tip investigators had received earlier in the day, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin announced in a news conference late Friday.

Athena Strand
An undated photo of 7-year-old Athena Strand.  Maitlyn Presley Gandy/Facebook

The suspect, identified as 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner, was taken into custody Friday on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, Akin said.

Horner was a FedEx contract driver who had delivered a package to Strand's home at about the time she disappeared, Akin disclosed.

"We knew early on in the investigation that there had been a FedEx driver, made a delivery in front of the house, about the same time that little Athena, 7-year-old Athena, came up missing," Akin said.

Investigators believe that Strand died "within the very hour or so after her departure from her home," Akin added.

He also indicated that Horner had confessed to the crime, and noted that investigators had obtained "digital evidence," but did not elaborate. 

"We do have a confession," Akin said. 

FedEx cooperated with investigators, Akin also confirmed.    

The company confirmed in a statement released Saturday that it is "cooperating fully" with authorities.

"Our thought are with the family of Athena Strand during this most difficult time. Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event," the company said in the statement.

The cause of Strand's death was not released, or the exact location she was found. Her body was located southeast of the Wise County town of Boyd, Akin said.

Horner, of Lake Worth, Texas, is being held on $1.5 million bail.

On the evening of Strand's disappearance, the sheriff's office said, it received a call from Strand's stepmother reporting her missing after the two had an argument while her father was not home, CBS DFW reported. 

The FBI, Texas Rangers Division, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the U.S. Marshals Service, were all involved in the investigation, according to CBS DFW.   

Paradise is located in the Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington metro area, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.