Texas FedEx Driver Indicted In Murder Of 7-Year-Old He Strangled In Delivery Van
A Texas FedEx driver who allegedly strangled a 7-year-old to death after accidentally hitting her with his delivery truck was formally indicted on murder charges.
Tanner Horner, 31, was indicted by a Wise County jury on Thursday on capital murder charges and aggravated kidnapping in the December killing of Athena Strand, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Horner was arrested on Dec. 2 after allegedly confessing to strangling the young girl to death while performing his daily delivery duties for FedEx.
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“I would like to thank the Wise County grand jury for their role in this process,” Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, said in a statement after learning of the indictment, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Hearing the facts and circumstances of my 7-year-old daughter’s kidnapping and murder was undoubtedly very difficult for them. I want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated.”
Prosecutors have stated they intend to seek the death penalty in Horner’s case. Horner remains in custody at a Wise County detention center on a $1.5 million bond, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com.
Photo: Wise County Sheriff's Office/AP
“Tanner Horner’s indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system,” Gandy added. “I appreciate everyone’s continued support and for keeping Athena’s name and memory alive. Please take a moment to hug your children and loved ones. No one is promised another day.”
On Dec. 2, 2019, Strand vanished from her family’s Paradise residence. She was last seen by her stepmother around 4:45 p.m. Detectives first zeroed in on Horner as the prime suspect in the case thanks to a public tip.
Under police questioning, Horner allegedly confessed to the girl’s murder, telling detectives he abducted and later strangled Strand to death after accidentally striking her with his work truck, per the case’s arrest warrant. He admitted to first trying to snap the girl’s neck before fatally choking her, officials said.
Strand’s body was later found on the banks of the Trinity River. Footage recorded inside Horner’s delivery truck also showed Strand in the Texas delivery driver truck.
Photo: Wise County Sheriff's Office
At the time of the incident, Horner had been delivering Strand’s Christmas gift — a Barbie doll set — according to loved ones. Her family displayed the toy set during a press conference outside the Wise County Courthouse following her death in early December.
“I will never be able to do her hair again or hold her while she sleeps,” Gandy said in December. “I was robbed of watching her grow up by a man that everyone was supposed to be able to trust to do one simple task: deliver a Christmas package and leave.”
Horner is also charged with sexual assault of a child under 17 and sexual assault of a child in an unrelated case out of Tarrant County, per online jail records.
Strand’s father later filed a civil lawsuit against Big Topspin, Inc. and FedEx Ground for $1 million in damages related to the 7-year-old’s death.