Athena Strand’s grandfather forgives her alleged killer

Crime

(NewsNation) — A grandfather announced publicly Saturday that he forgives the FedEx delivery driver who allegedly confessed to kidnapping and killing his 7-year-old Texas granddaughter.

“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,” Mark Strand wrote in a Facebook post. “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! Hate will not win.”

His granddaughter, Athena Strand, was found dead on Friday after she was reported missing last week after she had an argument with her stepmother at her Texas home, authorities said.

The suspect, 31-year-old FedEx driver Tanner Lynn Horner, was arrested Friday in connection to the abduction and death of Athena.

Authorities said Horner is accused of kidnapping and killing Athena after making a delivery to her house, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. As of Friday night, Horner was being held in the Wise County Jail on a $1.5 million bond. He’s been charged with the capital murder of a person under 10 and aggravated kidnapping.

Horner allegedly confessed to the crime, authorities said, though he did not give a motive. Police believe Athena was killed within an hour of her alleged abduction.

Strand was reported missing Wednesday. The girl’s stepmother looked for her for an hour before calling for help, triggering an AMBER Alert, according to NewsNation local affiliate WFLA.

A search for Strand went on for days, during which investigators learned Horner made a FedEx delivery to Strand’s home around the time she disappeared.

“It hurts our hearts to know that that child died, so much so that she is on her way now to the medical examiner’s office and there is a Texas Ranger in front of her and a Texas Ranger behind her,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said at a press conference late Friday night, according to NBC affiliate KXAS.

Akin said police think Strand died “within just the very hour or so after her departure from her home.”

Horner was located and taken into custody with help from FedEx and digital evidence, according to WFLA.

FedEx released a statement, saying, “Our thoughts are with the family of Athena Strand during this most difficult time. Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event. We continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities. At this time, any further questions should be directed to law enforcement.”

“I spent quite a bit of time with the family,” the sheriff said. “They’re devastated. They’re angry because of what happened. A precious child taken from their lives.”

The school districts in the area are urging everyone to wear pink on Monday in honor of Athena, KWTX reported. A candlelight vigil will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT at First Baptist Church of Cottondale, NBCDFW reported.

NewsNation’s Cassie Buchman contributed to this report.

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