WISE COUNTY, TEXAS: Athena Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, wants the death penalty for her daughter’s killer. Athena, 7, was strangled to death by Tanner Horner, 31, in the back of his delivery truck two weeks ago. In her first televised appearance, Gandy went into great detail about how her family has managed to get through the past two weeks.
Rilyn, Athena’s three-year-old sister, longs for her to return home and seems to not yet fully understand what has happened to her sibling, according to the horrifying revelations the mother provided. On November 30, Athena disappeared from the Wise County house where her father lived; her body was found two days later. Horner admitted to unintentionally hitting Strand with his truck. He then “panicked,” and strangled her as a result.
If and when a trial occurs, Gandy hopes the prosecution will push for Horner’s execution. The death penalty is legal in Texas, however, only two persons were given the death penalty in 2022. “I support the death penalty. In any sentencing that may come,” Gandy told WFAA. “Every breath he takes is one my daughter doesn’t. If I could sit down in front of him, I would tell him that he is nothing, but that Athena is absolutely everything, and I will make sure that everybody in this world knows that he is nothing and that she is everything.”
Horner is charged with aggravated kidnapping and capital murder. He is being held in custody on a $1.5 million bail. Athena wasn’t gravely harmed when Horner hit her while backing up, he told the police, but he panicked and threw her in his van nonetheless. According to an affidavit, he claimed that the girl was speaking to him and told him her name.
The warrant stated that Horner attempted to break the girl’s neck at first, but when that failed, he allegedly strangled her with his hands in the back of the van because he didn’t want her to tell her father what had happened. Later, Horner led the detectives to the location of Athena’s body, Daily Mail reports.
Gandy said she would have preferred if he had just driven away and left her daughter to walk. “We are very forgiving people. If Athena was not injured or even if she had a few bumps and scrapes, he could have just driven away. We could have forgiven him,” Gandy said. “Accidents do happen, but he chose to do more – and what he did was unforgivable. I have a hard time believing Athena couldn’t have walked away. Athena could have just walked away, and I wish he would have let her.”
Jacob Strand, Athena’s father, filed a $1 million lawsuit against FedEx and Horner earlier this week. Strand also mentions Big Topspin, the FedEx-hired contractor who hired Horner, in the case. Horner wasn’t a direct employee of FedEx, but the complaint claims that despite that, FedEx put “dangerous persons in a position of trust” with respect to Horner. In another portion, FedEx is charged with exerting “significant control” over visitors to their clients’ houses.
The family of the murdered girl is suing for more than $1 million in losses. FedEx issued a brief statement, saying, “Our thoughts remain with the family of Athena Strand in the wake of this tragedy.”
Gandy has vowed that she will stop at nothing to make sure her daughter gets justice. “I will spend the rest of my life fighting for her so that no other family will endure such unbearable pain and grief,” she said. “A monster attempted to take Athena’s voice — but we are her voice,” Gandy told reporters on December 15, adding, “Screening and hiring policies must be put into place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s footsteps.”