Content warning: This story contains graphic details about how Athena Strand died, based on the arrest affidavit.
A week after authorities say FedEx Ground contractor Tanner Lynn Horner confessed to killing 7-year-old Athena Strand and dumping her body near her home in Paradise, Texas, investigators have released new information about Strand’s death.
During the initial search for Strand, investigators discovered that a FedEx driver had made a delivery to her house around the time she went missing, about 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 30. Through further investigation, law enforcement discovered that Big Topspin was the contracting company used to deliver packages for FedEx.
Employees of Big Topspin helped investigators determine which van and driver had made the delivery to Strand’s home, according to the arrest affidavit.
The affidavit states that Horner, 31, of Fort Worth, Texas, confessed to accidentally hitting Strand with his GMC box truck when he was backing up. Although she “was not seriously injured [he] panicked and put her in the van.”
“[Horner] stated Athena was alive at that time, talking to him and told him her name was Athena,” according to the affidavit. “[Horner] stated he attempted to break Athena’s neck to kill her. [Horner] stated, when he attempted to break Athena’s neck it did not work so he strangled [her] with his bare hands in the back of the FedEx van.”
The affidavit states that Horner said during the interview that “he strangled Athena because she was going to tell her father about being hit by the FedEx truck [Horner] was operating.”
According to the report, Horner allegedly directed investigators to the location where he dumped Strand’s body near Trinity River in Boyd, Texas.
During the investigation, investigators learned the van Horner was allegedly driving was equipped with video equipment through a third-party provider, Velocitor. The affidavit states Velocitor was able to provide video from the truck that delivered the package, which was viewed by an FBI agent.
“The FBI employee found that the driver had taken a young girl who was visually similar to Athena in his van,” the affidavit states. “The driver was seen on video talking to her in the van.”
During a news conference last week, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said officers, the Texas Rangers and the FBI used digital evidence and interviews to estimate that Strand died within an hour after she was abducted from her home on Nov. 30.
FedEx Ground spokesperson Meredith Miller said the company “contracts with independent businesses that provide package pickup and delivery services using their own employees, vehicles and equipment.”
“The employees of these service provider companies are subject to criminal history background checks as part of the driver eligibility process,” Miller said in a statement to FreightWaves.
Horner is facing capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges. He remained in the Wise County Jail on Friday with bond set at $1.5 million.
Click here for more articles by Clarissa Hawes. Mark Solomon, senior writer at FreightWaves, contributed to this report.
This is a developing story.
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