Death Penalty Recommended for Strand’s Killer


Athena Strand | Image by FOX 4

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin is recommending the death penalty be sought for the delivery driver accused of kidnapping and killing Athena Strand.

Akin told ABC News that the victim’s young age and the fact that she was abducted before she was murdered played pivotal roles in his office’s recommendation to the district attorney regarding this case.

He also said that his staff at the Wise County Jail in Decatur is keeping an eye on 31-year-old inmate Tanner Horner as he sits alone in his cell.

Horner is being held on a $1.5 million bond and is charged with the murder and kidnapping of the 7-year-old. Strand’s official cause of death is not yet known, and an autopsy by a medical examiner is to follow, as The Dallas Express previously reported.

Nonetheless, the accused has reportedly provided the police with more details surrounding the incident which suggest that he strangled the young girl to death.

Akin said he is still gathering information from the public, which his investigators are following up on to ensure they have a strong case against Horner before handing the matter off to the district attorney’s office, ABC News reported.

Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, contacted the Wise County Sheriff’s Office to report that Athena had gone missing on the evening of November 30, leading to the issuance of an Amber Alert. Akin and his deputies found her body on December 2 in Boyd, Texas.

On Thursday, Gandy showed reporters the package Horner was supposed to have delivered at her father’s house before Athena was kidnapped and murdered, Fox News reported. Inside the box were several Barbie dolls that were going to be Christmas presents for the little girl.

“Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be,” Gandy said outside the Wise County Courthouse, Fox News reported. “And this present ordered out of innocence and love is one she will never receive.”

After Strand’s tragic death, there were community gatherings, vigils, and prayer circles. Many people wore pink to remember the 7-year-old, according to The Dallas Express.

Gandy spoke at the Parker County Christmas tree lighting last week, and the tree was adorned with pink lights in Athena’s honor, The Dallas Express reported.

“I know I told everyone pink is her favorite color,” she said, “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 [of] weeks.”

Athena’s grandfather, Mark Strand, shared his thought process as it transitioned from wanting “five minutes alone in a cell with the psycho” to forgiving his granddaughter’s murderer on social media.

“I can’t quiet my mind and I have to share this,” wrote Strand.

“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 wrote.

Gandy had a different message for Horner on Thursday.

“This is the monster that took my baby from me and this world. You will know her name, Tanner,” she posted on social media along with a picture of Horner’s mugshot.

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