A BODY was found during the search for little Athena Strand, who disappeared from her bedroom in the middle of the day.
The sheriff says the 7-year-old was abducted by a FedEx driver delivering a package and that individual is now in custody.
“Her body was recovered about two hours ago, maybe three… It pains our hearts to know that this child has passed away,” Lane Akin, the WIse County Sheriff, announced at the beginning of the press conference.
“So much so that she is now on her way to the coroner’s office.”
Akin assured that a ranger was in front of and behind the car that was transporting them.
A tip was received about a FedEx driver making a delivery around the same time Athena went missing.
According to the press conference, the contract driver kidnapped Athena during a package delivery to her home.
Tanner Lynn Horner, a 31-year-old man from Lake Worth, Texas, is believed to have killed the girl within an hour of her abduction, according to digital evidence and interviews.
Through a series of interviews and digital evidence, they were able to locate Horner, who was arrested and charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.
It is not yet known if Horner has any criminal history and is believed to be the sole suspect in the kidnapping and execution plot.
Authorities obtained a confession from Horner, they said in the news conference, and he led them to the key location where they found her remains.
He was reportedly not related and did not know the family.
“Every time a child dies, it hits you right in the heart,” the sheriff said.
Horner holds a $1.5 million bond.
Some details about the location of the remains and the probe have been withheld by authorities as investigations are ongoing.
Texas Rangers are currently searching the suspect’s home.
“The vast majority of the family is from Oklahoma, and they appreciated the fact that we care so much,” Akin said at the end of the public statement.
“They are devastated, they are angry about what happened. Precious child taken from their lives.”
Since Athena’s disappearance on Nov. 30, over 200 volunteers and dozens of law enforcement officers have spent hours searching intensively for the seven-year-old in Paradise, Texas — about five hours north of Houston.
Little Athena was last seen around 5pm on November 30 at her father’s Paradise home on County Road.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a frantic call from the child’s stepmother after she noticed Athena wasn’t in her room.
The step-parent spent about an hour looking for Athena before contacting the sheriff’s office at 6:40 p.m.
Athena’s stepmother said the two got into a “little argument” just before the child disappeared.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said the disagreement was “nothing unusual.”
Akins said the stepmother left to make dinner, came back to get Athena and she wasn’t in her room.
At the time of the search, authorities told WFAA-TV that they suspected the child may have run away after the argument, but they also did not rule out that Athena was kidnapped.
Neighbors of the child refuted the police theory, saying it was out of character for the seven-year-old.
“The only time she left was to go to her grandmother’s house next door — and that’s family,” neighbor Melina Owens told ABC News.
“She doesn’t agree to being in the dark. She doesn’t like the cold.”
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office used helicopters, drones, thermal imaging cameras, horses, dogs and ATVs to search for Athena.
The child’s biological mother took to social media to thank law enforcement officers and volunteers who were helping to locate her daughter.
“Thank you to my wonderful family and the great support of the Wise County community. We continue our search,” Maitlyn Gandy shared on Facebook, a day after Athena was reported missing.
“I ask everyone to pray…pray some more, keep praying and never stop praying. I can’t live without my baby and I need to get her home safely.
“Athena didn’t walk away or disappear on her own. I won’t give up or stop until I have Athena back. I feel like there’s a hole in my heart and half of my soul is missing. Please don’t give up on my baby. “
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/6817920/athena-strand-dead-after-disappearance-texas/ Athena Strand’s body was found after the 7-year-old disappeared from her bedroom in Paradise, Texas