The Wise County community continues to mourn the loss of a 7-year-old girl roughly one year ago after she was killed.
Last November 30, Athena Strand went missing from her father’s home in Paradise. Her mother, Maitlyn Gandy, reported her missing, and the local authorities issued an Amber Alert the following day.
As previously covered by The Dallas Express, Athena’s body was recovered in the Trinity River on December 2, 2022, after investigators were allegedly told where to find it by the man accused of murdering her, Tanner Horner. He allegedly killed her after accidentally hitting her when backing up his work truck at her house.
“The family was just torn apart,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin recently recalled, according to NBC 5 DFW. “The emotion was beyond what I imagined it would be, and I just really felt inadequate because I couldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.”
The Wise County community has not forgotten Athena, with residents decorating the outside of their homes in pink — her favorite color — and wearing pink t-shirts and bracelets to mark the one-year anniversary of her death.
Although Gandy asked for privacy during the difficult anniversary, she thanked everyone for their show of support and posted several photos and videos of Athena in remembrance.
“I look forward to seeing everyone wear pink for Athena and post your photos tomorrow,” her November 29 post on social media read.
Horner faces capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges. However, his trial has been delayed due to his claiming to need legal representation from attorneys specialized in death penalty cases from the Regional Public Defenders Office.
“I think all of us in law enforcement want to see the punishment is fitting of the crime, and I would say the vast majority of the people in this office are hoping that it ends in the death penalty,” said Akin, according to NBC 5.
Horner has pled not guilty to the charges but also faces a wrongful death civil suit from Gandy.
The delayed issuance of the Amber Alert after Athena’s disappearance has led to the passing of a new Texas law — dubbed “Athena’s Law” — permitting local law enforcement to issue an alert for missing children even if a kidnapping has not been confirmed, as covered by The Dallas Express.
According to data from the Texas Center for the Missing, 34,828 children were reported missing last.