Athena Strand Murder Twist: FedEx Driver Admits To How & Why He Killed 7-Year-Old

by Joel Richards

[Warning: Potentially Triggering Details]

Horrific new details have come out about the murder of Athena Strand.

As we’ve reported, the 7-year-old got off the school bus at the stop near her home in Paradise, Texas, last Wednesday at around 4:15 p.m. However, things soon turned into a nightmare when she vanished from the home! Her stepmother, Elizabeth Strand, called 911 more than two hours later to report Athena missing after seeing she wasn’t in her room and searching for her for about an hour. The stepmom reportedly told investigators she and Athena had gotten into an argument, so police initially thought the child ran away. But days later, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin announced that Athena was found dead. The sheriff believed she was kidnapped — and died within an hour of her abduction.

Related: OF Model Courtney Clenney’s Request Fro Bond Denied Amid Murder Accusations

The investigation quickly led to Tanner Lynn Horner, a 31-year-old contract driver for FedEx. After being taken into custody, Horner confessed to the crime and was charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. Athena’s mother Maitlyn Gandy revealed in a press conference on Thursday that he was delivering a Christmas present for her — a box of “You Can Be Anything” Barbie dolls — to their home when she was taken from the driveway:

“Athena was robbed the opportunity to be anything she wanted to be. I was robbed of watching her grow up by a man everyone was supposed to be able to trust to do one simple task: deliver a Christmas present and leave.”

Heartbreaking…

Now, more information about her final moments has been revealed. According to an arrest affidavit reviewed by People, Horner claimed to authorities the whole thing was a terrible accident. He says he accidentally struck Athena with his FedEx van while he was backing up. Although the delivery driver said she was not seriously injured after the incident, he panicked and put her inside the vehicle. You know how it is when you accidentally do a kidnapping…

It makes sense that he had to confess — after all the evidence was pretty solid. Per the affidavit, surveillance footage from the car showed Horner speaking to a young girl who looked like Athena. He told police she was talking to him and told him her name when they were in the van.

Instead of taking her back home, though, Horner says he decided to kill Athena because he was worried she planned to tell her dad about getting struck by the truck. He told law enforcement that he attempted to break the child’s neck at first, but it did not work. That’s when Horner began to strangle Athena in the back of the car “with his bare hands.” Just beyond horrible. The idea he would commit such a heinous act to cover up an accident is… kind of unbelievable.

Per the affidavit, the delivery driver also told authorities where to find Athena’s body, which was actually discovered near a river in Boyd, Texas, about nine miles from her home in Paradise, on December 2.

Moving forward, Maitlyn’s attorney, Benson Varghese, said in the Thursday press conference that he is in the “investigation phase” of Athena’s case. He explained that while he is not in a hurry to file a lawsuit, he does plan to hold the person — or corporation — “whose actions or inactions could have prevented this little girl’s tragic death” accountable:

“The ultimate goal is to ensure no other parent or grandparent feels the loss Maitland is going through right now. That’s our ultimate goal. … We are leaving no stone unturned in looking at all the decisions that happened before this tragedy occurred.”

Our hearts continue to go out to the Strand family following this unimaginable tragedy.

Do YOU buy Horner’s claims about how all this went down??

[Image via Texas Department Of Safety, Wise County Sheriff’s Office]