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DALLAS, TEXAS: Athena Strand’s father, Jacob Strand, has filed a $1 million lawsuit against FedEx and the defendant, Tanner Lynn Horner, also known as Tanner Horner. Horner abducted and strangled 7-year-old Athena outside of Dallas in November.
On November 30, Athena vanished from the Wise County house where her father lived; her body was found two days later. The 31-year-old Horner claimed to have accidentally run over Athena with his truck, “panicked,” and then strangled her to death. In the latest case filed, Jacob also lists FedEx’s contractor, Big Topspin, who hired Horner, as a defendant. Despite the fact that Horner wasn’t an employee of FedEx directly, the complaint claims that the shipping company placed “dangerous persons in a position of trust” with respect to Horner. FedEx is charged in another section with exerting “significant control” of people who come to their customer’s homes.
Jacob claimed neither FedEx nor Topspin conducted a thorough background investigation on the suspect. Horner’s criminal past is unknown. The lawsuit claims that Topspin provides service to the region where Strand was last seen, that FedEx owns the van the suspect was operating, and that the suspect was permitted to wear the company’s uniform.
“The employees of these service provider companies are subject to criminal history background checks as part of the driver eligibility process,” said a FedEx statement regarding Strand’s employment. “As is common across the industry and considered standard employment practice, the background check process is administered by a third party.”
The family of the murdered girl is suing for more than $1 million in losses. FedEx issued a brief statement expressing their support for the lawsuit, adding: “Our thoughts remain with the family of Athena Strand in the wake of this tragedy.” In addition to seeking financial compensation, Jacob requests a jury trial in Wise County District Court to resolve the dispute.
Horner is accused of aggravated kidnapping and capital murder. His $1.5 million bail has kept him in custody. The funeral for Athena took place on December 9. Maitlyn Gandy, the mother of Athena, has enlisted the help of a private legal team to look into the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s death.
Gandy has previously demanded that delivery personnel be held to a higher standard, according to the Dallas Morning News. At a news conference, she described how Horner allegedly kidnapped and killed Athena while bringing a ‘You Can Be Anything’ Barbie to the home of Strand’s father and stepmother in Paradise, Texas. Gandy stated, “Athena was robbed of the opportunity to grow up to be anything she wanted to be — and this present, ordered out of innocence and love, is one she will never receive. I will spend the rest of my life fighting for her so that no other family will endure such unbearable pain and grief.”
“A monster attempted to take Athena’s voice — but we are her voice. Screening and hiring policies must be put into place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s footsteps,” Gansy stated.