‘Deliverer Of Death’: Athena Strand’s Mom Joins Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against FedEx
The mother of Athena Strand, who was allegedly murdered by a FedEx delivery driver in Texas late last year, has joined a civil lawsuit against the courier company for its alleged role in the 7-year-old’s death.
In the amended 18-page civil complaint, filed Feb. 18, lawyers for Athena’s mom, Maitlyn Gandy, accuse FedEx and contracting company Big Topspin of negligence in their hiring of 31-year-old Tanner Horner, who is currently jailed on capital murder and kidnapping charges in connection with Athena’s death, Fort Worth television station KXAS-TV reported.
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Jacob Strand, Athena’s father, had filed the suit againt FedEx and Big Topspin, Inc. in December, seeking $1 million in damages for "acts and omissions" that led to the young girl’s killing at the hands of Horner.
"This lawsuit is about Athena Strand — a vibrant young girl who deserves to have her memory live on for the good she brought to the world," the lawsuit argued. "It is about a life that was taken senselessly — a child who could have been any of ours. It is about a loss that could have and should have been prevented."
Photo: Wise County Sheriff's Office
Specifically, the suit argues FedEx and Big Topspin are liable in Strand’s death, due to negligent hiring practices that led to Horner’s employment in the first place. They specifically pointed to lackluster background checks at both companies and questioned FedEx and Big Topspin's training methods and supervision tactics.
"This lawsuit is about affecting change at FedEx, in their hiring, training, and supervising of employees and contractors,” the case’s complaint added. “This lawsuit is about affecting change in the practices of FedEx subcontractors, like Big Topspin so that these tragic, life-altering and life-ending acts are not repeated.”
Athena was fatally strangled by Horner, prosecutors say, after he allegedly hit the girl with his cargo van while performing his delivery duties on Nov. 30, 2022. The 7-year-old’s decomposing body was pulled from the banks of the Trinity River two days later. A public tip led to his arrest. Horner allegedly later confessed to Athena’s killing.
The suit described FedEx as a “deliverer of death,” highlighting Athena's killing as “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Photo: Wise County Jail
“Horner brutally murdered Athena by strangling, smothering, or asphyxiating Athena. Horner then continued his trail of terror in the FedEx vehicle by attempting to ‘dispose’ of Athena’s body by placing her in a body of water on the side of the road,” the civil filings added.
The family had previously said Horner had carried out Athena's killing while delivering her Christmas gift — a Barbie Doll set — to her home on the day she was murdered.
The update to the civil lawsuit comes on the heels of Horner’s own formal indictment, which prosecutors announced last Thursday, per a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report.
In the immediate aftermath of Athena’s death, FedEx issued a public statement expressing their condolences to the slain girl’s family.
“We share in the collective grief surrounding this heartbreaking tragedy and our thoughts remain with the family of Athena Strand,” the company wrote on Dec. 9. “We continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities.”
Horner could face the death penalty, if convicted.
The jailed delivery driver is also charged separately with three counts of child sexual abuse related to incidents stretching back to 2013 in Tarrant County, online jail records previously obtained by Oxygen.com show. Horner remains in custody at Wise County Jail on bonds totaling $1,560,000.