A Texas FedEx driver who delivered a “You Can Be Anything” Barbie doll to a little girl’s home is accused of kidnapping and killing her last year.
Wise County authorities said they have formally charged Tanner Horner, 31, with kidnapping and murder in connection with the death of 7-year-old Athena Strand last year, The Independent reported.
On Nov. 20, 2022, Horner delivered the Barbie to the Paradise home Strand shared with her father. The child’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, who lives in Oklahoma, reportedly sent the doll to her daughter as a Christmas present.
Horner claimed that while near the residence he accidentally struck the child with his FedEx truck and when she told him she was telling her father what happened he panicked, according to The Independent.
Police said Horner allegedly admitted he strangled Strand and then disposed of her body.
Horner was indicted on Feb. 16 on two counts of aggravated kidnapping as well as a count of capital murder of a person under 10.
In a statement, the young victim’s mother, Gandy, thanked the grand jury for “their role in this process.”
“Hearing the facts and circumstances of my 7-year-old daughter’s kidnapping and murder was undoubtedly very difficult for them,” she said, noting, “I want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated. Tanner Horner’s indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system.”
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She added: “I appreciate everyone’s continued support and for keeping Athena’s name and memory alive. Please take a moment to hug your children and loved ones. No one is promised another day.”
Horner was being held on a $1.56 million bond and faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty if he’s found guilty of the charges against him.
The Independent reported the suspect also faces multiple counts of sexual assault of a child in connection with an unrelated case from 2013.
In a Wise County court, Strand recently entered a plea of not guilty to all counts against him, WFAA reported.
"Probably one of the most difficult moments of her life to see the person who killed her daughter, and it’s a moment she’s thought about for a long time," Benson Varghese, Gandy's civil attorney, said. "I suppose it’s surreal in some sense, but it was of just grave importance for her to be there."
The case is expected to go to trial later this year.
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