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Tanner Horner indicted on murder, kidnapping of 7-year-old Athena Strand

Tanner Horner indicted for capital murder in death of Athena Strand
Tanner Horner indicted for capital murder in death of Athena Strand 00:58

WISE COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - A former FedEx contract driver accused in the kidnapping and killing of 7-year-old Athena Strand was indicted on Feb. 16 for his alleged crimes. 

Tanner Horner, 31, was indicted for aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under the age of 10. 

The child's mother, Maitlyn Gandy released the following statement:

"I would like to thank the Wise County grand jury for their role in this process. Hearing the facts and circumstances of my 7-year-old daughter's kidnapping and murder was undoubtedly very difficult for them. I want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated.

Tanner Horner's indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system. I appreciate everyone's continued support and for keeping Athena's name and memory alive. Please take a moment to hug your children and loved ones. No one is promised another day."

Athena Strand, 7 courtesy Maitlyn Gandy

Horner confessed to snatching Strand from her driveway before killing her within an hour of her abduction on Nov. 30. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said shortly before Strand's stepmother realized the child was missing, Horner had dropped off a package at their home. That package contained a Christmas gift of Barbies from Strand's mother. 

Horner was subsequently tracked down through digital evidence that day.

Two days later, Strand's body was found about 9 miles away from her home, southeast of Boyd. Horner initially gave detectives two false locations for her body. 

Horner did not know Athena or her family.

"I was robbed of watching her grow up by a man everyone was supposed to trust to just one simple task -- deliver a Christmas present and leave," said Gandy. "She was an amazing little girl who loved singing, dancing and all animals. Dogs, horses, cats, lizards and chinchillas. She also loved school and all her friends in the first grade who are also struggling with her senseless murder. Athena also loved flowers but she wasn't afraid to get down in the mud with the boys. She was her father's daughter."

The news of Strand's kidnapping and death seemed unimaginable to many in Paradise, where children grow up playing in their front yards.

"We live a mile down the road. My kids were playing outside when she was taken. It does change everything. You never expected something like this," said resident Rachael Taylor.

Pink was Strand's favorite color, and those who knew her said the color matched her bright personality.

"I had never seen her not smiling. She was always very happy," said Phil Erickson, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church Cottondale.

Horner is facing charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. His bond was set at $1.5 million.

The estimated timeline for a capital murder case to see trial is 18 months to two years. No court dates have been scheduled involving his charges involving Strand, according to her mother. 

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