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Athena Strand, missing 7-year-old girl, found dead in Wise County

Athena Strand found dead in Wise County, officials confirm
Athena Strand found dead in Wise County, officials confirm 10:35

WISE COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) — A two-day search in rural Wise County amid cold temperatures led to the discovery of Athena Strand's body. The 7-year-old was first reported missing from her father's home on Nov. 30.

Athena Strand, 7. Maitlyn Presley Gandy via Facebook

At about 8:00 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2022, Sheriff Lane Akin said her body was found about 9 miles away from her home, southeast of Boyd.

Police said that the contract driver of a FedEx truck abducted Athena and that she likely died within an hour based on digital evidence and on a confession.

The driver was named as Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, of Fort Worth. He is being held at the Wise County Jail on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. His bond has been set at $1.5 million.

Athena Strand: Suspect in 7-year-old girl's death held on $1.5 million bond 02:34

Sheriff Akin said that at about the time Athena went missing, Horner dropped off a package at the home. She was probably abducted from her driveway, about 200 yards away from the house.

Horner was tracked down through digital evidence, although police would not go into detail about what led them to him. Sheriff Akin also confirmed that Horner had made a confession, but did not elaborate.

According to the Sheriff, Horner gave detectives at least two false locations - including an area of CR 4599 that was taped off by police on Friday afternoon - before leading them to Athena's body.

There was no information about a possible motive, but authorities said Horner did not know Athena or her family.

On Saturday morning, Athena's mother, Maitlyn Gandy, said in a Facebook page that she wanted her daughter to be remembered for who she was in life rather than as just a victim.

"I don't want her to be the girl known as the one murdered and discarded by a monster," she said, "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."

Fedex, when asked for comment, provided a statement that read in part:

Words cannot describe out shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding these events. Our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities.

They've promised to assist authorities with their investigation.

Earlier this week, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said they believed Athena likely ran away but did not rule out foul play. "It could be any number of things and we're looking at all those possibilities."

The Wise County Sheriff's Office said they received a call from her stepmother reporting her missing after the two had an argument while her father was not home. Police said she spent "about an hour" looking for her before contacting the sheriff's office.  

An Amber Alert was issued for Athena on Thursday and several hundred volunteers came out to Wise County to aid in the search.

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