A driver who works for FedEx was arrested and charged Friday in the kidnapping and killing of a 7-year-old girl who disappeared from the driveway of her home in Texas earlier this week, police said.
Athena Strand’s body was found Friday night, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said at a news conference.
“It hurts our hearts to know the child died,” Akin said Friday.
“It’s one of the toughest investigations I’ve been involved in because it’s a child. And every time there’s a child that dies, it just hits you in the heart,” he said.
Athena was reported missing Wednesday, and authorities launched a search for her in Wise County, northwest of Fort Worth. Authorities believe the young girl was killed within an hour of her abduction from the family’s driveway, which is about 200 meters from her home.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, has been booked into the Wise County jail on capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges, according to his website. Bond was set at $1.5 million, Akin said. It was unclear whether Horner had an attorney Friday.
Horner, identified by authorities as a contract driver for FedEx, was allegedly making a delivery to Athena’s home at the time she disappeared.
Earlier Friday, police say they received a tip that helped investigators determine Horner abducted the child from her driveway.
Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Presley Gandy, said her daughter was taken from her by “a sick, cruel monster for no reason,” she wrote in a Facebook post Saturday morning.
“I can’t describe the pain and absolute anger I feel. Missing her doesn’t cover how I feel,” Gandy said in the post accompanying a video of Athena, then 3, “I want, for the world to know my baby, my first baby, my first true love, the reason I breathe.”
“Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent and just the smartest, happiest soul you could ever meet. I don’t want her to be the girl known as the one who was murdered and discarded by a monster,” she added. I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me. I want everyone to know her face and her voice and what a wonderful person she is.”
Athena will be remembered for so much as her dream of growing up to be a Viking princess with tattoos like her father’s, how much she loved her two little sisters and her love of all things pink, her mother wrote.
Authorities did not provide a possible motive and said Horner did not know the family or the child, according to Akin.
Athena’s cause of death remains under investigation, and her body was turned over to the medical examiner’s office Friday, Akin said.
In a statement to CNN, FedEx expressed its sympathy and raised further questions for law enforcement.
“Words cannot describe our shock and sadness at the reports surrounding this tragic event. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities,” the statement read.