On December 2, Friday, Texas authorities reported that the body of 7-year-old Athena Strand was discovered in Wise County, approximately 9 miles away from her home in Paradise.
As per Sherriff Lane Akin, the primary suspect in the abduction and murder of Athena Strand has been identified as Tanner Lynn Horner, a 31-year-old Forth Worth resident working as a freelance contract FedEx driver at the time of the girl's disappearance.
CBS reported that authorities believe Horner kidnapped Strand while delivering a package to her home on November 30. The victim was not known to the suspect or her family before the killing, and Wise County officials believe it was random.
When asked about Tanner Horner's motive in the murder of Athena Strand, Akin said:
“To me, it’s a crime of opportunity."
The Star Telegram reported that the investigation is almost considered complete.
Athena Strand's body was found near Boyd
As stated by authorities, Athena Strand was last seen at 5.40 pm on 200 Block of Paradise's County Road. She had supposedly left home after an argument with her stepmother.
As per the Independent, in the aftermath of Strand's disappearance, local police and the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted a search around Wise County and other nearby areas. Authorities stated that the search effort used helicopters and thermal technology.
However, Sheriff Akin told the outlets that the investigation only saw major developments after Tanner Horner was identified as a person of interest. After officers determined that he had been delivering a pack to the Strand home at the time of the 7-year-old's disappearance, he was promptly arrested.
About 48 hours after the 7-year-old's disappearance, Horner led officers to the child's body, which was found near the town of Boyd, along the Trinity river.
At the official press Conference, Akin said that digital evidence suggested that Strand had been killed within an hour of her kidnapping.
"We think Athena died just a very hour or so after her departure from her home."
“It’s one of the toughest investigations I have been involved in because it’s a child. Any time there’s a child that dies it just hits you in your heart.”
Since Horner was working for FedEx at the time of the slaying, the company also released a statement. It read:
“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.”
Fox reported that Horner has no prior criminal record.