In the wake of Athena Strand’s untimely death, Parker County officials lit up a Christmas tree with pink lights – Athena’s favorite color. County officials also held a vigil Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. to mourn Athena’s untimely death.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life of Athena Strand,” wrote Parker County Judge Pat Deen, in a Facebook post. “I am asking our first responders, and our community [to] join me on the courthouse steps Tuesday morning at 7:00 AM to pray for Athena’s family and Wise County.”
Athena was just 7 years old when she was allegedly abducted from her father’s home by a FedEx driver, Tanner Lynn Horner, 31. After a two-day search, Horner confessed to his crimes and told investigators where to find her body.
Maitlyn Presley Gandy, Athena’s mother, thanked the town of Weatherford.
“I would also like to thank the town of Weatherford (I am unsure if it’s Oklahoma or Texas) for lighting a pink Christmas tree for Athena. I know I told everyone pink is her favorite color but also, her favorite holiday is Christmas and I can’t tell you how excited she was and how much she was looking forward to Christmas and coming home in a couple weeks.”
On Monday, many wore pink in remembrance of Athena, including over 20 school districts across the nation. Wise County Judge J.D. Clark, in a post on Facebook, also asked residents to wear pink.
Clark also encouraged everyone to join him at 6:30 p.m. on Monday “on the Courthouse steps to pray for Athena, her family, our first responders and our community.” WFAA posted a photo of a large crowd from the gathering and tweeted, “Hundreds gathered in front of the Wise County courthouse to pray for the family of Athena Strand on Monday night.”
Clark tearfully addressed the crowd.
“We’ve never had to get together for something like this,” Clark said. “I feel shocked, and I feel angry … We’re going to stick together and show people who are evil … not in our county and not our kids.”
More than 1,000 motorcyclists also gathered on Monday in Paradise, Texas, and raised over $8,500 in support of the bereaved family members. Gandy, after hearing of the biker’s ride, shared a snapshot of Athena as a toddler on a bike claiming her daughter “was a biker baby from the get-go.”
On Saturday, Mark Strand, Athena’s grandfather told people via social media that he forgives the man who allegedly killed his granddaughter, reported WFAA.
“I can’t quiet my mind and I have to share this,” wrote Strand. “This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want five minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him.”
“There’s not one ounce of my flesh that wants to do this or say this, but my spirit has heard God’s voice and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man! Hate will not win,” Strand continued in his Facebook post.
Gandy had a different message for Horner.
After posting a picture of his mugshot on the social media website, she wrote, “This is the monster that took my baby from me and this world. You will know her name, Tanner.”
In another post, she urged others to keep sharing and remembering her late daughter to keep her legacy alive.
“[Athena] would be so happy to know and see all of the things done in her honor and hear how many people care about her. She was born to change my world and she has. Let her unexpected and inexcusable death be reason we seek change. Let her pure beauty be the reason we make this world more beautiful. Let the light she brought into this world continue to grow brighter in her name.
“Her name is Athena Presley Monroe Strand.
“She was murdered by a monster.
“Her light will be the reason that monster and all the rest that exist run back to the shadows.
“Her name is Athena Presley Monroe Strand. She is my world, and I will continue to share her in everyone else’s world.”