Wise County officials confirmed the body of missing 7-year-old Athena Strand was found dead Friday night.
On the third day of the search for 7-year-old Athena Strand, a large police presence was seen on Friday night seven miles from the property where Athena Strand disappeared on Wednesday.
NBC 5 has learned the FBI is on the scene.
Sources tell NBC 5 this is a “very active situation,” but so far officers have not said exactly what is happening on the remote stretch of road in Wise County.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said concern is growing the longer the girl has been missing and that detective work was a greater emphasis. On Thursday, hundreds of volunteers helped with a massive search of the area where the child disappeared, but did not find the girl.
“We’re deeply concerned about it because it’s been a long time. The first night it was 28, 29 degrees. And she wasn’t dressed very warmly. We initially thought she was in a jacket, but in reality she was in a t-shirt with jeans and boots. So we’re very worried. The longer it goes on, the more we worry. But I’m an optimistic guy,” Akin said.
Instead of asking for volunteers to help search for the girl, Friday Akin asked anyone with information to come forward.
Call the Wise County Sheriff at 940-627-5971 or the FBI at 972-559-5000
“It is heavy on our minds. Many of us have gone without sleep, so we are asking for the public’s help,” he said.
The sheriff said the girl was alone with her stepmother Wednesday after her father left to go hunting. He said the stepmother called 911 to report Athena missing after an argument.
Her aunt Keeland Kulbeth of Oklahoma, who came to join the search, said she can’t believe Athena would just walk away.
“She may have been upset when the father left, and I honestly don’t know that she may have been upset,” Kulbeth said. “She loved people, loved animals, loved flowers. She’s a very girly girl. I just can’t see her running away.”
An Amber Alert was issued for the girl Thursday after she had been missing for nearly 24 hours.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean we expect bad play, but we understand it could be a possibility,” Akin said.
Athena had been riding a bus to school in Wise County every day, but several people said she was moving to live with her birth mother in Oklahoma, Kulbeth’s sister.
“We’ve been told that,” Akin said.
The sheriff said investigators are speaking with all family members and the search for evidence in the case continues.
Sheriff Lane Akin is a retired Texas Ranger with many years of law enforcement experience.
Several other agencies help in the case.
TEXAS STATEWIDE ALERT PROGRAMS
There are seven types of warnings that can be issued to people in Texas. They are listed below with links to a page with more information.