A FedEx driver panicked after striking a 7-year-old girl in Texas with his work van and threw her in the truck, where he killed her, authorities said.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, who is charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, told authorities he placed Athena Strand in his work truck after he struck her with it, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Thursday.
Horner allegedly told investigators the child was not seriously injured when he accidentally backed the truck into her. Horner also told investigators he even spoke to the girl in his van where she told him her name, the affidavit said.
But he killed her after he “panicked” and because “she was going to tell her father about being hit by the FedEx truck the Defendant was operating,” the affidavit said.
Multiple media outlets reported Thursday Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, saying Horner was delivering Athena’s Christmas present, “You Can Be Anything” Barbie dolls, shortly before she was killed.”Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be,” Gandy said, while at times breaking down and crying. “I was supposed to bring Athena back home to Oklahoma after Christmas break. Now instead, Athena will be cremated and she will come home in an urn because I am not anywhere close to being ready to let my baby go.”
The affidavit said Athena’s stepmother called 911 to report the girl went missing from their home in Paradise, in Wise County, on Nov. 30 about 6:41 p.m.
The child was reported missing less than an hour after her stepmother last saw her in her temporary bedroom, which was a converted storage shed she shared with her stepsister, the affidavit said.
Investigators, according to the affidavit, learned FedEx delivered a package around the time she went missing. Investigators worked with a contracting company delivering packages for FedEx, to determine which van and driver made the delivery.
Investigators also learned the FedEx truck was equipped with cameras that captured one-minute clips, the affidavit said. An employee with the FBI, the affidavit said, analyzed video evidence and “found the driver had taken a young girl who was visibly similar to Athena in his van. The driver was seen on video talking to her in the van,” the affidavit said.
Investigators were able to identify Horner as the driver.
Horner, after allegedly admitting he killed the girl, also allegedly told investigators where to find her. Law enforcement personnel found the dead child in water, the affidavit said.
Horner was arrested Friday, two days after the girl disappeared, which prompted a large search with around 200 volunteers from the community.
On Friday, authorities found her body southeast of the city of Boyd, a city about 11 miles away, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told reporters.
“We do have a confession,” Akin said at a news conference Friday night.
A bond for Horner was set at $1.5 million. It was not immediately clear Thursday night if Horner had an attorney.
FedEx has said in a statement that its thoughts are with the family, and the company is cooperating fully with law enforcement.
“Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding this tragic event,” FedEx said.