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FedEx driver strangled 7-year-old after hitting her with van, affidavit says

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(WFLA) — The FedEx driver accused of killing 7-year-old Athena Strand in Texas admitted to strangling the girl after hitting her with his delivery van, according to an arrest warrant.

NBC affiliate KXAS reported the affidavit said contract driver Tanner Lynn Horner confessed to accidentally hitting the child with his delivery van while backing up. However, Athena was not severely injured.

Horner told authorities he took the girl into his van. The child was still conscious and told Horner that her name was Athena.

However, Horner panicked as Athena said she was going to tell on him for hitting her with the vehicle. In response, he tried to break her neck but ended up strangling the 7-year-old instead, according to the affidavit.

This undated photo from the Wise County Sheriff’s Office shows Tanner Lynn Horner. Horner, 31, was arrested Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, on kidnapping and murder charges after confessing to killing a 7-year-old Texas girl and telling authorities where to find her body, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin. The girl’s stepmother had reported her missing on Wednesday from the family home near Paradise, Texas. (Wise County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

The document said the FBI linked Horner to the crime after agents discovered a delivery was made to the Strand home at the same time of the child’s disappearance. By working with FedEx, they were able to link contracting company Big Topspin, Horner’s employer, to the delivery.

Investigators said they were able to obtain surveillance video from the van that made the delivery that showed a driver bringing a girl who resembled Athena into the van and speaking with her. According to KXAS, the affidavit did not describe what happened next.

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It was this video that allowed agents to identify Horner as the driver who took Athena. After being taken into custody, the suspect confessed and told detectives where he put her body.

Thursday morning, Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, revealed exactly what Horner’s delivery was: a package of Barbies meant to be a Christmas present for the little girl.

“I was robbed of watching her grow up by a man that everyone was supposed to be able to trust to do one simple task: deliver Christmas packages and leave,” Gandy said while reading a statement.

Maitlyn Gandy
Maitlyn Gandy, mother of 7-year-old Athena Strand, looks at the package that was delivered by a FedEx delivery man authorities say allegedly abducted her daughter last week during a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Benson Varghese, Gandy’s attorney, said at this time, the family is in the mourning process, but their long-term goal is to find out who is accountable for Athena’s death.

Gandy herself said stricter hiring practices must be done for families to be safe from delivery drivers.

“Screening and hiring policies must be put into place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s doorsteps,” she said “Please help me keep Athena’s light shining.”

Athena’s private funeral was scheduled to happen Friday, Dec. 9.

Source: WFLA

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