Community reels after girl’s killing; FedEx driver charged

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 9:50 AM EST
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PARADISE, Texas (CNN) - Students in a Texas school district are being encouraged to wear pink to pay tribute to 7-year-old Athena Strand.

A driver working for FedEx has been charged with kidnapping her from her driveway and then killing her.

The little girl’s mother is speaking out.

The city of Paradise, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth, is grappling with the tragic ending of their search for a missing girl.

On Wednesday, Athena disappeared from the driveway of her family home, prompting a massive hunt with nearly 200 volunteers alongside law enforcement.

Her body was found two days later after authorities received a tip.

Investigators said a FedEx driver was making a delivery at the time of the 7-year-old’s disappearance.

The suspect, 31-year-old FedEx contract driver Tanner Lynn Horner, is behind bars, charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.

“We do have a confession. It’s one of the toughest investigations I’ve been involved in because it’s a child,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said.

Akin didn’t indicate a possible motive and said Horner didn’t know the family or the child.

In a statement, FedEx said, “Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event.”

In a separate statement to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Fed-Ex Ground said the company contracts with independent businesses to help its delivery services, and the employees of those companies are subject to a criminal background check.

Athena’s mother Maitlyn Presley Gandy issued a tribute to her daughter on Facebook, writing: “My princess was taken from me from a sick, cruel monster for absolutely no reason. Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent, and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet.”