The FedEx driver charged with kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old Texas girl told detectives he hit her backing up in his truck and then strangled her when she said she was going to tell her father.
According to the arrest affidavit filed in the case and posted by the Wise County Messenger, Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, admitted to killing Athena Strand and directed investigators to where he dumped her body.
Athena was Missing for 2 Days Before Investigators Linked FedEx Delivery to Her Disappearance
Texas prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty for Horner. The 7-year-old disappeared on December 2. After her stepmother, Elizabeth Strand, was unable to find her, she called 911. The disappearance prompted an Amber Alert.
An overnight search into the morning failed to find the little girl, the arrest affidavit said; meanwhile, investigators learned that a FedEx delivery had been made at about the time Athena disappeared and that FedEx had contracted with a company called Big Topspin to deliver packages to the Paradise, Texas, residence.
Horner, the FedEx driver was dropping off her Christmas present — a set of Barbie dolls called the "You can be anything" collection, Athena's mom said.
They learned also that the trucks had video cameras operated by a third party called Velocitor, which provided investigators with video from the truck that delivered a package to the Strands. An FBI employee located video that showed a girl who looked like Athena in the truck talking with Horner.
Horner Said He Backed into Athena Accidentally, Strangled Her After She Threatened to Tell Her Father
When detectives located Horner, he told them that he had taken Athena and that she was dead. He said that he had backed into the girl with his truck accidentally. She was not seriously injured, he said, but he panicked and put her in the van.
After he was taken back to the sheriff's office and read his Miranda rights, he told detectives the same story, according to the affidavit. He said that he initially tried to break the girl's neck, but when he couldn't, he strangled her "with his bare hands in the back of the FedEx truck." He did so, he said, "because she was going to tell her father about being hit by the FedEx truck the Defendant was driving."
Horner is jailed in the Wise County Jail on a $1.5 million bond, charged with kidnapping and capital murder of a person under 10.