The body of 7-year-old Athena Strand was found in Wise County on Friday evening, and a FedEx contract driver from Fort Worth has been arrested and accused of kidnapping and killing her, authorities said.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, was making a delivery in front of Athena's house at the time she disappeared Wednesday, and law enforcement received a tip which led authorities to investigate him, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said. FedEx has been cooperating with the investigation, which includes the FBI and Texas Rangers.
Horner is in the Wise County Jail and faces charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. His bond is set at $1.5 million.
When was the call?
Athena was last seen about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday in the 200 block of County Road 3573 in Paradise. Her stepmother reported her missing at 5:40 p.m., about an hour after she discovered Athena was not in her room.
"We know that there was a little bit of an argument between her and her step-mom last night but it isn't anything unusual," Akin said during a press conference on Friday. "There was that argument, then stepmom went to fix dinner, came back to get Athena, and Athena wasn't in her room."
The Texas Department of Public Safety issued an Amber Alert for her Thursday afternoon, describing her as endangered.
About the search
On Wednesday, helicopters using thermal imaging searched the area before first responders and more than 300 volunteers looked for Athena on Thursday. On Friday, the sheriff said the efforts had switched to an investigation.
"From the beginning, it was a search accompanied by an investigation, but we are now transitioning to an investigation accompanied by a search," he told reporters during Friday's news conference.
Police were seen on County Road 4599 on Friday evening. Shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, authorities announced they had found Athena's body and had made an arrest. They said Horner confessed to the crime and told them where Athena's body was. Her body was found roughly six miles southeast of Boyd, according to Star-Telegram media partner WFAA. Her body was found along the water's edge of the Trinity River, Akin told the Star-Telegram.
"I spent quite a bit of time with the family," Akin said. "They want you to know that … they appreciated the fact that we care so much. They're devastated. They're angry because of what happened - a precious child taken from their lives."
Where is Paradise?
Paradise is town of 475 people six miles southwest of Decatur on Texas 114 in southwestern Wise County.
Early settlers of the area came in the 1870s when a store opened in town, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The settlers initially called the town Eldorado, but was told by postal authorities that the name was already taken. They suggested Paradise Prairie because of the abundance of wildflowers in the area.
Who is Tanner Lynn Horner, accused in Athena's death?
Horner is from Fort Worth. He does not appear to have a prior criminal record in Tarrant or Wise counties. Horner's social media accounts say he has been an Uber driver, a musician and graduated from Azle High School.
He was being held Friday night in the Wise County Jail and faces charges of capital murder of a person under 10 years old and aggravated kidnapping.
Akin told the Star-Telegram on Saturday that an autopsy could take a couple of weeks.
"We do believe she died by his hand," he said.
Akin said called the kidnapping a crime of opportunity and that authorities have spoken to prosecutors about seeking the death penalty. No federal charges are expected.
Is there a motive?
Akin would not speak to any possible motive, calling it "a crime of opportunity." He said investigators don't believe that Horner knew Athena or her family.
What did FedEx say?
FedEx issued a statement late Friday:
"Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding this tragic event. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time, and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities. At this time, any further questions should be directed to law enforcement."