7-year-old Athena Strand was with her step-mother as a Fed-Ex driver came to the residence in Paradise, Texas to deliver a package that was intended to be Athena's Christmas present, a package of Barbie dolls. Athena was headed back to her mother's home after the holidays. On this day, she was staying with her father, Jacob Strand, and his wife. Athena's stepmother waited an hour to report her disappearance believing she may have just walked away over an argument they had the night before. Athena got off the school bus at 4:15 p.m. and was believed to have left the residence about 5:15 p.m., when the stepmom realized she was missing.
Law Enforcement joined their search efforts with approximately 200 nearby citizens raking over 50 acres in Paradise. Helicopters with thermals also joined the search. Athena's father was out of town on a hunting trip, and her mother lived in Oklahoma.
Two days later on December 2, 2022, Athena would be found nearly 10 miles away, deceased.
A contractor for Fed-Ex delivery, 30-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner, admitted to abducting and killing Athena. He told investigators that he accidentally hit her in his van while backing out of the residence and panicked. He got out of the van, put her in the van, and they argued. Instead of reporting the accidental incident to her family, he chose to abduct her, and drove away. He attempted to break her neck, and when that failed, he strangled her with his hands in the back of his van.
Horner took investigators to where he left Athena's body, after giving them two false locations. It is believed Athena was murdered within the hour after she was abducted. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping, and capital murder. The Wise County State Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty.
Athena's father has begun a lawsuit against the contractor that hired Horner, and is seeking $1 million in damages and a jury trial.
Delivery Drivers Respond
In an inspiring message that spanned across TikTok, Amazon, UPS & Fed Drivers came together to send a message to Athena, her family, and all parents across the globe. The message tag #yourbabiesaresafeonmyroute took an heart wrenching turn, with all drivers promising safety on their routes, with their hearts standing with Athena. Bows on their trucks as they deliver, as a reminder to them and all those on their route, that Athena is remembered with every package delivered.
The main video here:
A private service was held for family and close friends Friday December 9, 2022.
Athena Presley Monroe Strand was born May 23, 2015, in Duncan, Oklahoma, to parents Jacob Strand and Maitlyn Gandy.
A first-grader at Paradise Elementary School, Athena had an ever-present smile which brought joy and happiness to everyone she encountered. She made friends as easily as a butterfly can flap its wings and would light up any room she walked into. Athena had many hobbies and interests, including horseback riding, doing makeup, being a princess, and loving life. She also enjoyed spending time with her family and playing with her sisters as often as possible.
Pallbearers will include Jacob Strand, Steve Kulbeth, Mark Strand, Zach Strand, Elijah Strand, and Josh Kaul.
Survivors include her parents Maitlyn Gandy, Jacob Strand and wife, Ashley; sisters Rilyn Dawn Gandy, Yrsa Liv Strand, and Alice Elizabeth Strand; great-grandparents Doylene Thompson, Jackie Kulbeth, Eloise Strand, and Jeannie Watson; grandparents Steven Kulbeth, Mark Strand, Shelly and Daymon Crittenden, and Terry Stephens and wife Bridget; aunts and uncles Keeland Kulbeth, Kaden Jones and husband Jerrad, Kayla Kaul and husband Josh, Zachariah Strand and wife, Heather, Elijah Strand and wife, Madison, Andrea Larrazolo, Isaiah Castillo, Jacob Stevens, Tyler and Christina; and a host of friends and family.
Athena was preceded in death by her grammy Beverly Dawn Kulbeth of Comanche, Oklahoma; great-grandpa Hank Henry Strand of Bridgeport, Texas; and great-uncle Brady Strand.
Information accumulated by: