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Athena Strand was a happy 7-year-old girl from Dallas, TX — loved the color pink, to dance and laugh. She was a big sister, a daughter, and a friend. But her life was taken away, cut short in a despicable way by a FedEx driver. 

Tanner Horner, 31, was delivering birthday presents to her house when he spotted Athena playing in the front yard. In a split second he decided to kidnap the little girl. 

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Tanner Horner

Her loved ones called 911 immediately and reported her missing. A frantic search ensued in the tight-knit community. Who would do such a thing? Why? Where was Athena?

While Amber Alert went out, police began to pull over cars, Athena’s parents looked to Facebook to gather volunteers. In the meantime, Horner, raped, then killed Athena in the back of the FedEx truck he drove. 

He threw away her body near a dirty road about seven miles from Athena’s home. 

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‘It’s been rough for our family. For my other three-year-old. She doesn’t understand why she can’t call ‘sissy’ or why she hasn’t come home yet. It’s a long time for her to go without seeing her sister,’ said Athena’s mom, Maitlyn Gandy. First reported by the DailyMail.

Last week, a grand jury, formally charged Horner, with kidnapping a child and a murder. The prosecution informed the grand jury they wish to seek the death penalty. If convicted Horner will be executed for his crimes.

Speaking to the local Dallas TV Station, WFAA, Gandy said she supports the death penalty. She continued, “Every breath he takes is one my daughter doesn’t. If I could sit down in front of him, I would tell him that he is nothing, but that Athena is absolutely everything – and I will make sure that everybody in this world knows that he is nothing and that she is everything.’

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Discussing the funeral of her daughter, Athena’s mom said that she made sure she sees her daughter’s face one last time before they closed her casket.

‘I closed her casket before her daddy, uncles and grandfathers carried her out. I just held her hand, kissed her and told her how sorry I was, and how much I love her.’ 

‘That was the last time I saw her.’


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By Jolene Grace

Jolene Grace was a journalist for ten years, interning for CBS evening news, working as a beat report for Oklahoma Public radio, and eventually transitioning into managing digital content for a radio corporation. Currently, she writes crime fiction full time and blogs for the Crime Room. Jolene is fortunate enough to be able to tell the stories of those who no longer can. She’s passionate to write about cold cases being solved. You can read her blogs on thecrimeroom.com or listen to The Crime Room Podcast wherever in the world you happened to be. Let’s Talk Crime.

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