The FedEx driver had no official criminal record prior to the incident (Image via family of Athena Strand)

 “She will come home in an urn”: Athena Strand’s mother says FedEx driver delivered her Christmas gifts before kidnapping and murder

On December 8, Thursday, Athena Strand's mother revealed that the FedEx driver implicated in the 7-year-old's murder had been delivering Christmas gifts to the Strand family home at the time of the abduction.

Maitlyn Gandy, the biological mother of the murder victim, said that Athena Strand had been staying with her father in Paradise, Texas, at the time of the killing. Gandy said she expected her daughter to return to her Oklahoma home for Christmas break.


She said:

“Now, instead, Athena will be cremated and she will come home in an urn because I’m not even, I’m not anywhere close to being ready to let my baby go."
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

The primary suspect in the murder is Tanner Lynn Horner, a freelance contractor who worked for FedEx. The New York Post reported that Horner had been delivering Barbie dolls to the victim's family home before kidnapping her in what was described by Texas authorities as a crime of opportunity.

Horner has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and capital murder.


Athena Strand's mother comments on the case

At the official Press conference, Maitlyn Gandy said that she only saw the dolls delivered to Athena Strand after the young girl was found murdered.

Heartbreaking to hear the news in Wise County about little Athena Strand. I’m shocked & gutted that this evil can occur in our community. Jane and I are praying for her family during this devastating time. May she Rest in Peace.

Gandy said:

“Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be. And this present ordered out of innocence and love is one she will never receive."

She added that Christmas had been Strand's favorite holiday. She proceeded to present the package of dolls which her daughter was never able to see. As per Fox, the toys were part of a collection called 'You can be anything'.

She said:

“Athena’s favorite holiday was Christmas as it is for many children everywhere. The joy Athena gave her family, and the joy she felt on Christmas is something we will never feel with here again.”

Gandy described her daughter as a kind and friendly child who loved animals and the outdoors.


She said:

“(Athena) loved dancing, singing and all animals: dogs, cats, horses, lizards and chinchillas. She also loved school and all her friends in the first grade who are also struggling with her senseless murder. Athena also loved flowers, but she wasn't afraid to get down in the mud with the boys. She was her father's daughter."

She also condemned the actions of Horner, saying:

“I was robbed of watching her grow up by a man everyone was supposed to be able to trust. To do just one simple task: deliver a Christmas present and leave.”
As we mourn #AthenaStrand, the tragedy seems to underscore the fallen, dangerous world we occupy. Kids today don’t wander freely as I did, and it’s been tempting to say we’ve overreacted. Then you get a story like this that makes you want to never let them out of your sight.

In tribute to Athena Strand, the Texas school district began an initiative where everyone wore pink on December 5. CBS reported that over 20 school districts participated in the movement.

Edited by
Sayati Das
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