“She was the best little girl”: Athena Strand’s mother pays tribute to 7-year-old at Texas candlelight vigil

Athena Strand’s distraught mother paid tribute to her daughter (Image via Peyton Yager/Twitter)
Athena Strand’s distraught mother paid tribute to her daughter (Image via Peyton Yager/Twitter)

On Tuesday, December 6, Athena Strand’s distraught mother paid tribute to her slain seven-year-old daughter at a heartwarming candlelight vigil, saying:

“She was the best little girl.”

In her first public address since the horrific murder of her young daughter, Maitlyn Gandy expressed her gratitude to the Texas community who had gathered to pay their tributes.

In an emotional tribute, Maitlyn Gandy thanked the volunteers, including those who helped amplify the story of her daughter. Athena Strand was abducted and killed by FedEx truck driver Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, after delivering a package to Athena's family home last week. She added:

“I just want to keep her face and her story alive because I want everyone to know Athena, for Athena, and not for what someone tried to make her out to be because she's the best little girl, she really was.”

Athena Strand's mother said her daughter loved animals

During the candlelight vigil, Athena Strand's bereaved mother addressed hundreds of people, describing her daughter as the best girl who loved animals and everyone she had ever met.

On Wednesday, November 30, Athena Strand was reported missing by her stepmother, who told police that the two had an argument while her father was on a hunting trip.

In the days that followed, several law enforcement agencies, including EMS and volunteer firefighters, along with 200 civilian volunteers, assisted in the search for the missing girl until her body was discovered on Friday, December 2.

While speaking to the crowd during the vigil, Gandy thanked the volunteers who searched for her daughter and the law enforcement who found the body, adding:

“I don't care if it’s five years from now, 10 years from now, remember Athena Strand.”

As per NBC News, Athena Strand's first-grade teacher Lindsey Thompson also spoke to the crowd gathered at the vigil, saying she’ll always remember Athena’s smile and the sound of her laughter. She added:

“I now have 18 of my favourite 6 and 7-year-olds that are sad and hurting because they no longer have a friend and classmate.”

In a Facebook post on Monday, December 5, Athena’s devastated grandfather Mark Strand penned a heartfelt note forgiving the suspect for the heinous crime.

"There’s not one ounce of my flesh that wants to do this or say this, but my spirit has heard God’s voice and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man!"

Horner is currently in the Wise County jail on $1.5 million bail. He was charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. While police have not expounded on the details of the murder, they have described it as an opportunistic killing.

Quick Links

Edited by Prem Deshpande