DA Seeks Death Penalty for Strand Suspect

Athena Strand | Image by FOX 4

Wise County District Attorney James Stainton is planning to pursue the death penalty for Tanner Horner, the man accused of killing 7-year-old Athena Strand in November in Paradise.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said that Stainton had already filed the paperwork required to seek the punishment, according to KERA News.

Horner confessed to accidentally hitting Strand with his van on November 30, 2022, while delivering a Christmas package for FedEx. Horner worked for a FedEx contractor, Big Topspin, at the time. The arrest affidavit showed that Horner allegedly told police that Strand was not seriously injured after the accident, per WFAA.

Despite this, Horner allegedly panicked and placed Strand into his van. Police claim that Horner said Strand was able to talk and told him her name.

Horner reportedly admitted to unsuccessfully attempting to break her neck and then strangling her to death. Two days later, Strand’s body was found miles away from her home, and Horner was arrested. An autopsy report by the Dallas County Medical Examiner said that Strand had blunt force trauma to her head and neck.

Athena’s mother and father both filed lawsuits against FedEx, Horner, and Big Topspin.

“This lawsuit is about Athena Strand — a vibrant young girl who deserves to have her memory live on for the good she brought to the world,” the lawsuit reads. “It is about a life that was taken senselessly — a child who could have been any of ours.”

This lawsuit is about affecting [sic] change at FedEx, in their hiring, training, and supervising of employees and contractors. This lawsuit is about affecting [sic] change in the practices of FedEx subcontractors, like Big TopSpin so that these tragic, life-altering and life-ending acts are not repeated,” said the lawsuit.

On February 16, Horner was indicted on capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges. After the indictment, Maitlyn Gandy, Strand’s mother, released a statement:

“I would like to thank the Wise County 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. I want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated,” said the statement, per CBS News.

“Tanner Horner’s indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system. I appreciate everyone’s continued support and for keeping Athena’s name and memory alive,” the statement continued. “Please take a moment to hug your children and loved ones. No one is promised another day.”

Horner is currently being held in the Wise County Jail on a $1.5 million bond.

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