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Athena Strand's mother advocates for localized alert, House Bill 3556

AUSTIN (CBSNewsTexas) - Her 7-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered. Now Athena Strand's mother, Maitlyn Gandy is advocating for change in how quickly law enforcement can alert the community when a child is abducted. 

Athena Strand
An undated photo of 7-year-old Athena Strand, who went missing from a home in Paradise, Texas, on Nov. 30, 2022. Her body was found two days later, on Dec. 2.  Maitlyn Presley Gandy via Facebook

"I begged from the moment I got to her father's property for an AMBER Alert but it wasn't until about 24 hours later it was sent out," Gandy told state legislators on April 25. "If an AMBER Alert had been issued immediately, or some type of regional alert like the bill proposes, it could have made a difference in my child's life."

Athena's Alert, or House Bill 3556, aims to tell the public about missing children faster. It states that under any circumstances of a missing child with or without evidence of abduction, an Athena Alert will be issued within a radius of last known location if the overseeing official finds it necessary.

"It is a localized alert, meaning if you get it, you live within 100 miles of where the child was last seen. Because it's a limited alert, we believe it will get more attention and can potentially save many lives," attorney Benson Varghese explained. 

The proposed bill is yet another way Gandy has sought justice since her daughter's slaying at the hands of Tanner Lynn Horner on Nov. 30, 2022. 

She previously filed an 18-page wrongful death lawsuit in February seeking "fair and reasonable" compensation for "acts and omissions" that led to Strand's murder. Tanner, a former FedEx driver and the contracting company that hired him, Big Topspin, were named in the suit. Athena's father, Jacob Strand filed a lawsuit in Dec. 2022, too. 

Posted by Maitlyn Presley Gandy on Thursday, April 27, 2023

Gandy was emotional as she spoke to legislators, "An Athena's Alert is not to replace the AMBER Alert. Amber Hagerman was just as much a real, loved little girl as Athena and I would never want to take that progress her mother made on her behalf away."

Horner was charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

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