A FedEx contract driver strangled a 7-year-old girl after hitting her with his van in Texas late last month, according to arrest warrant documents.
Tanner Horner, a 31-year-old from Fort Worth, has been arrested and charged with capital murder of a person under 10 years old and aggravated kidnapping in the death of Athena Strand, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
After the girl was reported missing, investigators tracked down video from the truck showing Horner speaking to a girl who looked like Athena on Nov. 30, sand an affidavit supporting the arrest warrant. Horner told investigators he accidentally hit Athena with his delivery van while backing out of the driveway at the girl’s home.
Although Horner said Athena was not seriously injured, he “panicked” and brought her into the back of the vehicle, where he allegedly tried to kill her by breaking her neck before strangling her with his bare hands.
Horner said he left the girl’s body in the water on the edge of the Trinity River near Boyd, where authorities said they recovered the body on Friday, December 2.
The arrest warrant and affidavit were published Thursday by CBS 11.
Maitlyn Gandy, the mother of Athena, said at a news conference on Thursday that her daughter was abducted while visiting her stepmother and father in Paradise, Texas. The driver was delivering a package of Barbie dolls meant to be a Christmas gift to Athena, she said.
“Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be,” Gandy said. “And this present, ordered out of innocence and love, is one she will never receive.”
Horner was arrested Friday and is being held on $1.5 million bond in the Wise County Jail. The death penalty has been discussed with prosecutors if Horner is convicted, Wise County Sheriff told the Star-Telegram over the weekend. The news outlet said it was not clear whether Horner has an attorney.
A private funeral for Athena will be held on Friday, according to NBCDFW.