Saturday, 25 Mar 2023

Driver accused of abducting and raping girl, 7, faces DEATH PENALTY

FedEx driver accused of abducting and raping Athena Strand while delivering birthday present to 7-year-old faces DEATH PENALTY after being charged with capital murder

  • Tanner Horner, 31, faces either the death penalty or life in prison after indictment
  • Athena Strand’s father has said he supports the death penalty if convicted 
  • A jury in Wise County formally charged Horner with kidnapping and murder 

A Texas FedEx driver accused of kidnapping and strangling a seven-year-old girl he abducted from her Dallas home has been formally charged with murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Tanner Horner, 31, told investigators that he accidentally hit Athena Strand with his truck on November 30, ‘panicked,’ and then grabbed her and put her in his vehicle.

Fearing what would happen if he told her parents, he strangled her inside the truck and dumped her body seven miles from her home, besides a country road. She was found on December 2.

A jury in Wise County formally charged Horner with kidnapping and murdering the young girl Friday.

Police have told prosecutors they want them to seek the death penalty, according to NBC5. If convicted, Horner faces either execution or life in prison. 

Tanner Horner (pictured right), 31, told investigators that Athena Strand (pictured left) wasn’t seriously hurt after he hit her while backing up, but he panicked and put her in his van. He said she was talking to him and told him her name

Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, released a statement on the indictment. 

‘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,’ she added. ‘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.’ 

Horner has been charged with sexually assaulting a child almost a decade ago and faces three additional counts of sexually abusing a child in 2013, in Fort Worth. He is being held in jail on a $1.5 million bail.

Athena’s father, Jacob Strand, has launched legal action against FedEx, claiming they did not carry out sufficient background checks before hiring Horner.

‘I support the death penalty. In any sentencing that may come,’ Gandy told WFAA. 

‘Every breath he takes is one my daughter doesn’t.

‘If I could sit down in front of him, I would tell him that he is nothing, but that Athena is absolutely everything – and I will make sure that everybody in this world knows that he is nothing and that she is everything.’

Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy (pictured right), released a statement on the indictment

In her first television interview, Maitlyn Gandy, the mother of Athena Strand, has reflected on her daughter’s life and her hopes of justice for her killer

Athena was abducted from her father’s home in Paradise, Texas, on November 30 by FedEx driver Tanner Horner, police say

Maitlyn Gandy, embraces other kids during a memorial service earlier this month

The seven-year-old was laid to rest in a bright pink coffin at a private funeral service. Gandy, 26, said her late daughter, Athena, will be cremated and ‘come home in an urn because I’m not anywhere close to letting my baby go’

Maitlyn Gandy posted photos of her ate daughter Athena’s pink coffin on her Facebook page

Gandy says she wished he had simply driven away and let her daughter walk.

‘We are very forgiving people,’ she said. 

‘If Athena was not injured or even if she had a few bumps and scrapes, he could have just driven away. We could have forgiven him. 

‘Accidents do happen, but he chose to do more – and what he did was unforgivable. 

‘I have a hard time believing Athena couldn’t have walked away. Athena could have just walked away, and I wish he would have let her.’  

Gandy says she is still grieving for her daughter while still trying to care for her younger sister, Rilyn.

‘I triple-check my doors every night, and I hold my three-year-old tighter. I’m scared to let her go. Everything is just very, very scary and very, very sad,’ Gandy said through tears.

‘It’s been rough for our family. For my other three-year-old. She doesn’t understand why she can’t call ‘sissy’ or why she hasn’t come home yet. It’s a long time for her to go without seeing her sister’, she explains. 

‘We’re coping. We’re trying to function. It’s been long. Hard but very chaotic at the same time. 

‘I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m confused. I am doing my best. 

‘I’ve been very scared, and I don’t sleep very often or for an extended period of time. Noises at night scare me.’ 

‘I triple-check my doors every night, and I hold my three-year-old tighter. I’m scared to let her go. Everything is just very very scary and very very sad,’ Gandy said through tears

Gandy is seen with her daughters Athena and Rilyn 

Horner’s FedEx truck is pictured, in which he killed the little girl

Gandy says one of the hardest moments she has had to endure was when she saw her little girl’s face for the final time as she lay her to rest at her funeral.

‘I was the one who saw her face last,’ she said. 

‘I closed her casket before her daddy, uncles and grandfathers carried her out. I just held her hand, kissed her and told her how sorry I was, and how much I love her. 

‘That was the last time I saw her.’

Although Athena’s body was placed in the casket for the funeral service, Gandy brought her cremated remains home in an urn because said she was ‘not anywhere close to letting my baby go.’

In a brief statement, FedEx said that they were of the suit adding: ‘Our thoughts remain with the family of Athena Strand in the wake of this tragedy.’ 

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