Mother of 7-year-old Texas girl found dead shares heartbreak: ‘We feel like we failed you’

The mother of Athena Strand, the 7-year-old Texas girl whom a FedEx contract driver is accused of kidnapping and killing, shared a heartbreaking message about her daughter on social media.

“Her name is Athena Presley Monroe Strand. She was perfect from her creation. She was born perfect and too beautiful,” Maitlyn Gandy wrote in a Dec. 4 Facebook post.

“Daddy and mommy were scared of how beautiful she has always been and we feel like we failed you,” she continued. “No one deserves what happened to you, but especially you. I love you and love doesn’t even cover it. Mommy is broken without you.”

She also shared multiple photos of Athena, including pictures of her daughter riding a bicycle, petting a rabbit, and sitting in a spa chair.

Athena disappeared from her home in Paradise, Texas, on Nov. 30. After a widespread search, her body was found two days later near the city of Boyd, a city about 11 miles away, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told reporters.

It is believed that Athena died within about an hour after being abducted, authorities said.

Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, a FedEx contract driver, has been arrested on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, and remains in a Texas jail with bonds totaling $1.5 million. Akin said at a recent news conference, “We do have a confession.”

“Our thoughts are with the family of Athena Strand during this most difficult time. Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event,” FedEx said in a Dec. 3 statement shared on Twitter. “We continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities.”

In a Facebook message over the weekend, Wise County Judge J.D. Clark invited members of the community to wear pink on Monday, Dec. 5, in honor of Athena.

He also invited community members to gather on the evening of Dec. 5 at the local courthouse "to pray for Athena, her family, our first responders, and our community.”

The Paradise Independent School District also honored Athena with a moving statement.

“It is with a sad and heavy heart that I address you. We lost a precious member of our student body,” Superintendent Rod Townsend wrote Dec. 4 on the school district’s official Facebook page.

“Athena Strand was tragically lost this past week," he continued. "This world will forever be different because she wasn’t allowed to grow and develop into the precious young lady she was meant to be.”

He also said extra counselors would be available at “the elementary and intermediate campuses tomorrow and for as long as needed.”

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