‘She was robbed of chance to grow to be anything,’ Maitlyn Gandy, the mother of murdered 7-year-old Athena Strand, said Wednesday
Addressing media Wednesday Gandy shows Barbie ‘Christmas gift’, the murderous FedEx driver delivered before snatching and murdering her daughter
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, is facing capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges,
Texas prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Horner, who has confessed to kidnapping and killing Athena Strand
She had been visiting her father and step-mother in Paradise, Texas last Wednesday when she stepped outside as Horner was delivering a package
It was carrying Barbies she would have received on Christmas
Her body was found about six miles from the home on Friday – police said she was likely killed within an hour of her abduction
The FedEx driver accused of kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old girl had been delivering her Christmas present when he snatched her from her driveway.
At a news conference on Thursday, Maitlyn Gandy recounted how Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, was delivering a You Can Be Anything Barbie to 7-year-old Athena Strand’s father and stepmother’s house in Paradise, Texas last Wednesday when he allegedly snatched the little girl and killed her.
‘This package is the first time I’m seeing it,’ Gandy said of the now-opened Walmart box, as she explained that the Barbies were set to be a Christmas present for her young daughter.
‘Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be — and this present, ordered out of innocence and love, is one she will never receive.’
Horner is being held at the Wise County Law Enforcement Center in Texas on a $1.5million bond, as prosecutors work to build a death penalty against him.
He is facing capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges.
Texas authorities investigating Strand’s disappearance zeroed in on Horner, who was a contract driver for Fed Ex. Authorities allege that Horner confessed to abducting Athena while delivering a Christmas package to their home and later killing her.
His case is scheduled to be turned over to the district attorney next week.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office announced that it will continue to follow-up on tips they receive from the public so they can build an air-tight case against him.
‘Because of the age of the child, and because it was an abduction, we are going to pursue the death penalty,’ Sheriff Lane Atkin told WFAA.
Speaking through their attorneys, Gandy and her family signaled their intention to conduct their own investigation to determine whether FedEx could have done more to prevent the tragedy. While not announcing a lawsuit against the shipping company, Gandy lawyer Benson Varghese has asked community members to contact them with any information, including if Horner also delivered packages to their home that day.
He agrees with the sheriff’s decision to seek the death penalty, saying, ‘It is undoubtedly appreciated,’ as The victim’s mother also vowed she will continue to seek justice for her daughter. Gandy said ‘I will spend the rest of my life fighting for her so that no other family will endure such unbearable pain and grief,’ she said.
‘A monster attempted to take Athena’s voice — but we are her voice,’ Gandy told reporters Thursday, adding: ‘Screening and hiring policies must be put into place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s footsteps.’
Gandy said she will continue to seek justice in her daughter’s death, saying ‘screening and hiring policies must be put into place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s footsteps.’.
The FedEx van Homer was said to have been driving was found several miles away from where Athena was abducted
Police say they found missing 7-year-old Athena Strand’s dead body two days after she was abducted from her home in Wise County, Texas
FedEx released a statement on Friday night expressing their condolences to the family: ‘Words cannot describe our shock at the reports surrounding this tragic event. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time.’
When asked about their hiring practices, a spokesperson for FedEx told FOX News Digital that it ‘contracts for transportation, pickup, and delivery services with more than 6,000 independent businesses that are committed to providing outstanding package pickup and delivery services using their own employees.’
The spokesperson also said each employee is subject to a criminal background check and ‘should we become aware of any criminal activity within our network, we work swiftly to investigate and address those incidents, including cooperating with law enforcement.’
At the media conference Wednesday, police revealed that they were able to link Horner to the killing based on a tip they received, as well as his FedEx delivery route.
Cops say Horner snatched Athena Strand from the driveway of her family home in Paradise, Texas that afternoon, after the little girl stepped outside following an argument with her stepmother as Horner was delivering a package.
When Athena didn’t come back inside and could not be found in her bedroom, her stepmother reported her missing to police at about 6.40pm.
Local police then worked in tandem with the FBI, Texas Rangers and Wise County Sheriff’s Offices to bring the case to a speedy yet tragic end, although two false leads sent police looking in the wrong places for the girl.
The missing girl’s body was eventually found in Boyd, about six miles away from the home.
Horner confessed shortly after being apprehended and now faces capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges.
He is the only suspect authorities believe is responsible in the case, Sheriff Akin said. He did not have any connection to the family.
Authorities said Tanner Horner confessed to kidnapping Athena Strand from her Wise County home and killing her. Maitlyn Gandy said confessed killer was delivering her 7-year-old daughter’s Christmas gift. The grieving mother died her hair pink in her daughter’s memory, as she spoke about how she will have to celebrate Christmas Athena for the first time in seven years
At the news conference on Thursday, Gandy, who died her hair pink in her daughter’s memory, spoke publicly about the loss. She said Christmas Athena’s favorite holiday, agonized that this would be the first Yuletide in seven years where she will not be able to hear or see ‘the excitement of Athena opening gifts from Santa and sissy,’ Gandy said, adding: ‘I will never be able to hear her say ‘I love you mommy.”
‘I will never be able to do her hair again or watch her as she sleeps,’ she continued. ‘I was robbed of watching her grow up, by a man that everyone was supposed to be able to trust to do one simple task: Deliver a Christmas present and leave.’
In another post, Gandy wrote: ‘Daddy and mommy were scared of how beautiful she has always been and we feel like we failed you. No one deserves what happened to you, but especially you. I love you and love doesn’t even cover it. Mommy is broken without you.’
She went on to describe her angel as ‘innocent, beautiful, kid, intelligent and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet.’
Gandy continued: ‘I don’t want her to be the girl known as the one murdered and discarded by a monster. I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me.’
Meanwhile, Athena’s grandfather, Mark Strand, in a Facebook post said despite part of him wanting ‘five minutes alone in a cell’ with the suspect, Tanner Horner, he decided to listen to another part that told him forgiveness was the only way for him and his family to recover.
‘This man I am is angry, and I want five minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft, gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him,’ he wrote in an emotional Facebook post.
‘If I allow this hate to consume me, that voice will fade and eventually be silenced. Then that ugly spirit of hate will have succeeded and that’s why this gentle voice persists to tell me I need to forgive this man.’