On Friday night, authorities in Wise County, Texas, gave the heartbreaking update that a child who had been missing since Wednesday, Nov. 30, was found dead less than 10 miles from her home.
In a press conference Friday night, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said 7-year-old Athena Strand’s body had been found roughly 6 miles southeast of Boyd, Texas, and a suspect was in custody.
Investigators said the suspect, identified as 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner, confessed to police to abducting and killing the 7-year-old girl.
Horner was working as a contract FedEx truck driver and had been delivering a package to Strand’s family home when she was abducted, according to authorities.
The man, who previously worked as an Uber driver, was reportedly being banned from the platform.
FBI Acting Agent in Charge Jim Dwyer said authorities believe Strand died only about an hour after being abducted based on digital evidence and statements gathered while interviewing Horner.
They said they had known that a FedEx driver visited the house the day Strand went missing but that the investigation pointed to Horner after a tip came in.
Horner is the lone suspect authorities believe responsible in the case, Akin said.
He did not have any relation or connection to the family, according to investigators.
The child’s grandfather said he forgave the FedEx driver accused of abducting and murdering his 7-year-old granddaughter in Texas after requesting “five minutes alone in a cell with the psycho.”
In the news: After Sex-Toy Game In A City Park, One Florida City Seeks To Implement Code Of Conduct For Public Events
“I can’t quiet my mind and I have to share this. A friend just asked me the other day if I believe God speaks to people? I happen to know He does, as He is speaking to me now,” the girl’s grandfather, Mark Strand, wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook tribute on Saturday. “This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want 5 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.”
“This flesh man, wants that psycho to burn in hell for all eternity, yet that gentle voice continues to tell me, I need to forgive him,” the grandfather continued. “This flesh man hopes he remains blind and deaf to the message of salvation and never sets foot in the same heaven that I know in my heart my darling Athena resides in now and yet, that gentle voice persists. Why you ask? Because Hate is a powerful force that will take root in your soul. God wants to protect us all from that hate. Hate is the gateway for the Evil we see growing in the world today.”
“If you stood that man before me right now, because of the hate that’s trying to root itself in my mind, I would probably kill him,” the elder Strand wrote. “Then that hate would root itself in my heart and I would be destroyed. That gentle voice is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to me right now. He’s reminding me that my savior Jesus, willingly laid Himself on a cross and died in my place to reconcile me to God the Father, but also that He did that for All of Us, even this man that my flesh so Hates at this very moment.”
The grandfather’s post went on to say, “I am a sinful man, yet I’ve heard this voice before and I miss hearing this voice. If I allow this hate to consume me, that voice will fade and eventually be silenced. Then that ugly spirit of hate will have succeeded and that’s why this gentle voice persists to tell me I need to forgive this man. It’s for my protection and my peace. It’s to set me free from this hate and allow me to continue to hear God’s gentle voice.”
“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!” Strand declared.
“Hate will not win. I hope my family will understand that I don’t do this for the sake of this man. I do this for the sake of my family and myself and to Honor the voice of God who is giving me the strength to say this,” he said, concluding his post. “I do this to honor our precious Athena who knew no hate. This man won’t be allowed any real estate to live in my brain, he belongs to God, and God’s justice will done. Love Conquers All and Forgives. Today, I choose Love and hate loses.”
Horner is being charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. He is booked into the Wise County Jail and his bond at this time is $1.5 million.