FedEx driver charged with kidnapping and killing 7-year-old Athena Strand in North Texas

After the body of 7-year-old Athena Strand was found in Wise County Friday night, a FedEx contract driver was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murdering her, officials said.

The suspect, Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, is from Lake Worth. He is in Wise County Jail facing murder and aggravated kidnapping charges. Authorities said he confessed to the crime.

Horner was making a delivery in front of Athena’s home when he went missing Wednesday, leading authorities to investigate him, Wise County Sheriff Lane Aiken said. Cooperating with investigations involving the FBI and the Texas Rangers.

The sheriff said investigators believed Athena was murdered within an hour of her abduction. Authorities have not released the exact location where her body was found, but it was within miles of her home.

“It breaks my heart to learn that he died,” the sheriff said at a press conference just after 10 p.m.

The sheriff would not discuss the motive for the kidnapping and murder.

Athena’s disappearance rocked this rural community northwest of Fort Worth. Hundreds of volunteers assisted in the search over the past two days, bringing the case to national attention.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, the sheriff said authorities were scaling back their search for the child and focusing more on the investigation. The tone of the update to reporters was harsh.

Later in the day, a number of law enforcement agencies appeared to have set their sights on County Route 4599 between Boyd and Cottondale, less than 10 miles from Athena’s home. Officers appeared to search the ditch, but officials cleared the scene and left around 7 p.m. without saying whether they had found anything, the WFAA reported.

The sheriff said Athena’s body was found miles away from the location.

Speaking at a 2:00 p.m. press conference on Friday, Aiken said:

An exhaustive search of the five-mile radius on Wednesday and Thursday found no trace of the missing child.Sheriffs said earlier Friday that an investigation had taken place did not provide evidence of wrongdoing Or kidnapped.

Watch the 2pm update live stream from our content partners on WFAA below.

of Little girl’s stepmother reports Athena missing After the family searched for her for about an hour, she went to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday.

Akin said Athena’s stepmother and father, who Athena was staying in North Texas County with, were cooperating with the investigation as well. mother in oklahoma.

Akin said at a press conference on Friday that Athena took the school bus home as usual around 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. The first information her investigators received from her stepmother, which “might still be accurate,” was that she and her child “had a bit of an altercation,” which was not uncommon. the girl leftsaid the sheriff.

“Athena was upset and left like she used to,” but her stepmother said, “I thought she would come back.”

However, Athena’s stepmother told the sheriff’s office that she went to her stepdaughter’s room around 5:30 p.m., but she wasn’t there.

According to the sheriff’s office, the stepmother was the only person in the house when the girl went missing. Her father drove to South Texas to go deer hunting and was somewhere south of Fort Worth when her wife called to tell her that Athena was gone.

Athena was last seen at her father’s house on Block 200 of County Route 3573. in paradiseAkin said he was unaware of the previous call home.

According to the sheriff’s office, about 14 minutes after the 911 call, sheriffs and other first responders arrived at the rural property and searched in and under the house and the entire six-acre property owned by the family. did.

They searched until 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning and then returned at 7 a.m. for an extensive search, Akin said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety issued an amber alert Thursday afternoon describing Athena as endangered. “Law enforcement believes children’s safety and health are at risk,” Amber Alert said.

Authorities are searching the exterior and interior of all buildings in the immediate vicinity. Athena “wasn’t dressed really warmly,” Akin said. “We have a lot of concerns. The longer it goes on, the bigger our concerns.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other local police and fire departments assisted in the search and investigation. Hundreds of volunteers from the community took part Thursday and “walked shoulder to shoulder through the bush” in a coordinated pattern, Aiken said.

officials said Volunteers weren’t needed on Friday And they should not continue to show up unless requested by the county emergency management office.

Search parties used helicopters, drones, horses, dogs and ATVs equipped with thermal cameras.

“From the beginning, it was a search with an investigation,” Aiken said Friday. “We are currently transitioning to an investigation with a search.”