A 7-year-old girl was found dead Friday night, two days after she went missing from her home in the Wise County, Texas, community of Paradise.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, has confessed to police to kidnapping the girl and killing her, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said Friday, according to WFAA-TV.
Horner was working as a contract FedEx truck driver at the time the girl was taken. Police said he is the only suspect in the case.
BREAKING: Wise County officials announce they recovered the body of 7-year-old Athena Strand. A FedEx driver is in custody with a $1.5M bond related to her abduction and death. Sending my condolences to the north Texas family😢💔 pic.twitter.com/vaBsVAQBlU
— Tahlia (@TahliaSG) December 3, 2022
“We knew early on in the investigation that there had been a FedEx driver, made a delivery in front of the house, about the same time that little Athena, 7-year-old Athena, came up missing,” Akin said, according to the New York Post.
Investigators have “digital evidence” connecting Horner to the crime, he said, without proving details.
Horner is charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. He is being held in the Wise County Jail with bond set at $1.5 million.
“It’s one of the toughest investigations I’ve ever been involved in because it’s a child,” Akin said, according to WFAA-TV.
“Any time there’s a child that dies, it just hits you in your heart. You compare that child to your own children when they were at that age,” he said.
— Rose (@901Lulu) December 3, 2022
FBI Acting Agent in Charge Jim Dwyer said the initial evidence leads them to believe the girl died within about an hour after she was taken.
Akin said Horner delivered a package at the girl’s home at about the time she went missing. Police believe she was taken from her driveway, about 200 yards from the house where she lived.
Akin said the suspect gave two locations where the body could be found before providing the actual location where the girl’s body was found.
Akin said the girl’s family is “devastated,” according to WFAA.
“They’re angry because of what happened — a precious child taken from their lives,” he said.
Parents — All it takes is one second. Sucks that we have to live like this…but please… don’t take your eyes off your children. Too many monsters walking amongst us to take that risk. #AthenaStrand https://t.co/SW9Aggu4QU
— Derrick Levasseur (@DerrickL) December 3, 2022
FedEx released a statement after the arrest.
“Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding this tragic event. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time, and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities. At this time, any further questions should be directed to law enforcement,” the statement said.
The girl was last seen Wednesday afternoon. She and her stepmother had an argument, after which the girl apparently left the house. A search for her began at about 6:40 p.m. Wednesday when her stepmother could not locate her. The search included an Amber alert.