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Former FedEx driver indicted on kidnapping and murder charges for the strangling death of 7-year-old Texas girl

Athena Strand and Tanner Lynn Horner (Wise County Sheriff's Office)

Athena Strand, left, and Tanner Lynn Horner, right, her alleged killer. (Wise County Sheriff’s Office)

A former FedEx delivery driver was indicted Thursday for the murder of 7-year-old Athena Strand, who was kidnapped from her driveway in Texas and strangled in the back of his FedEx van, authorities said.

Tanner Horner, 31, was indicted for aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under the age of 10, according to jail records reviewed by Law&Crime. The Fort Worth native has been in jail since Dec. 3, 2022, after allegedly confessing to hitting Strand with his delivery truck and then panicking about what to do.

“[Horner] stated when he was backing up in his FedEx truck, he accidentally hit Athena with the truck, but she was not seriously injured, panicked and put her in the van,” an arrest warrant affidavit says.

Horner intentionally caused Athena’s death “by strangling and/or smothering and/or asphyxiating” during the kidnapping, according to the indictment handed up Thursday and obtained by The Messenger.

The indictment further alleges the defendant acted “with intent to inflict bodily injury on Athena Strand or with intent to terrorize Athena Strand” by “moving her from one place to another or by confining her, with intent to prevent her liberation, by secreting or holding her in a place she was not likely to be found,” the paper reports.

Representatives with the Wise County District Attorney’s Office and Wise County Sheriff’s Office did not return messages seeking comment.

RELATED: Athena Strand’s Father Sues FedEx and Driver Accused of Murdering the 7-Year-Old Girl ‘with His Bare Hands’ in the Back of a Delivery Va

“Tanner Horner’s indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system,” the girl’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, said in a statement, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “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.”

Athena was last seen after 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2022. Her stepmother called 911 after realizing the girl was not in the house. Police issued an Amber Alert for the child’s disappearance, and a search was launched with police and more than 200 people.

Her body was found on a riverbank on Dec. 4, 11 miles away from her home.

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