The body of a 7-year-old girl who went missing on Wednesday has been found in Wise County of North Texas on Friday. Athena Strand was reportedly kidnapped and murdered by 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner, a FedEx driver who was making a delivery in the girl’s neighborhood. According to Sheriff Lane Akin, Horner confessed to killing Athena and described where her body was kept.
Horner is now in custody at the Wise County Jail and his bond is set at $1.5 million.
Sheriff Akin said Athena’s mother lives in Oklahoma, but the girl lived with her father and stepmother in Forth Worth. He said the stepmother reported that the little girl arrived from school via the school bus on Wednesday and following a little argument with her, the girl stomped off and never returned.
“Athena got upset, and she walked away, as she has done in the past,” Akin quoted Athena’s stepmother, who said she “expected she would come back.” But after fixing dinner and the girl was nowhere to be seen, the stepmother searched everywhere for the girl and was unable to locate her. She placed a call to her father who had gone deer hunting in south Texas. The matter was reported at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office that evening.
Akin reported that over a period of two days, a combined team of police and the fire service, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the US Marshals Service, and numerous volunteers mounted a search to locate the missing girl. Search helicopters with thermal-imaging cameras, drones, horses, dogs, and ATVs were also deployed for the search operations.
“It’s one of the toughest investigations I’ve been involved in because it’s a child,” Sheriff Akin said during the operations. “Any time there’s a child that dies, it just hits you in your heart. You compare that child to your own children when they were that age, and it just takes the wind out of your sails, but at the same time it gives you purpose.”
Later by Friday, the sheriff disclosed that “it was a search accompanied by an investigation…it’s now transitioning to an investigation accompanied by a search.” But after the body of the girl was discovered at the edge of Trinity River close to Boyd on Friday evening, he lamented that “we’re just sad it didn’t end the way that we hoped that it would end.”
Akin said he believed Horner kidnapped and killed Athena without knowing her or her family. It was “a crime of opportunity,” he said. He may be charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, and some prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in prosecuting him. The suspect’s social media profiles indicate he was an Ube driver and musician who finished Azle High School in Forth Worth and did not have any criminal records.