The FedEx driver accused of kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old girl in Texas last week told authorities he strangled her after accidentally hitting her with his truck while making a delivery to her home, according to an arrest warrant.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, told investigators that Athena Strand was not seriously injured after he struck her as she was reversing, but panicked and pulled her into his truck. She said she was talking to him and told him her name, the affidavit says.
The affidavit said that Horner led investigators to the location where he had left Athena’s body.
THIS IS A LAST MINUTE UPDATE. The previous AP story follows below.
The mother of a 7-year-old girl who authorities say was kidnapped and killed by a FedEx driver said she wanted everyone to know about the “incredible little girl” who reportedly received the Christmas present the driver left the day he He disappeared.
“I was robbed of the opportunity to see her grow,” Maitlyn Gandy told those gathered at a news conference Thursday in Decatur, Texas. She stood next to the gift, a box of “You Can Be Anything” Barbies.
Athena Strand was found dead on December 2, two days after she was reported missing from her father and stepmother’s home in Paradise, a town of fewer than 500 people about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Dallas. .
Tanner Lynn Horner, a 31-year-old FedEx delivery driver, confessed to killing Athena and told authorities where to find her body, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said. Horner, who did not know the family, was arrested on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.
The sheriff has said they knew all along that a delivery had been made to the girl’s home around the same time she went missing. Authorities have not said how she died, but Akin has said investigators believe she was killed about “an hour or so” after she was abducted.
Gandy, speaking outside the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Paradise, said Athena planned to return home to Oklahoma after the Christmas break.
“Now, instead, Athena will be cremated and come home in an urn because I’m not even, I’m not even close to being ready to let my baby go,” she said.
Gandy said that her daughter, who loved school and her friends in first grade, also “loved to dance, sing and all the animals: dogs, cats, horses, lizards and chinchillas.”
He said that Athena loved flowers and was also not afraid to “get in the mud with the children.” “She was her father’s daughter,” Gandy said.
“I will never see his bright blue eyes or his smirk again,” Gandy said. “I will never be able to hear her say, ‘I love you, Mommy.’ I will never be able to comb her hair or hold her while she sleeps again.”
She thanked the community, saying they “spoke into action” from the moment Athena went missing and has been seeing people everywhere wearing pink in honor of their daughter. At a vigil Tuesday night in Paradise, many of the mourners gathered to remember that Athena wore pink.
“I ask everyone to hold your little ones a little tighter for me,” Gandy said.
Gandy was joined at the news conference by her lawyer, Benson Varghese, who said they were investigating anyone “involved in the decisions that were made that led to this tragic loss.”
Horner remained jailed Thursday on $1.5 million bail. Jail records did not list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.