FedEx Driver Who Murdered Texas Girl May Get Death Penalty

[Shutterstock Manuel Milan]

Melanie Wilcox Contributor
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The FedEx package delivery driver who allegedly murdered a 7-year-old girl in Texas in November may get the death penalty.

A Wise County grand jury formally charged Tanner Horner, 31, with the kidnapping and murder of Athena Strand, a first grader from Paradise, Texas, on Thursday, NBC 5 reported. (RELATED: Child Claims She Was Abducted By Ice Cream Truck Driver In Staten Island)

Horner told police he accidentally hit Strand on November 30 and panicked when she said she would tell her dad, NBC 5 reported. Horner confessed that he then killed her and dumped her body.

Horner was indicted Thursday on two charges of aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under 10. If convicted on the capital murder charge, Horner faces either life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Police have told prosecutors they want them to seek the death penalty in this case.

“I would like to thank the Wise County grand jury for their role in this process,” Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, said. “Hearing the facts and circumstances of my 7-year-old daughter’s kidnapping and murder was undoubtedly very difficult for them. I want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated. Tanner Horner’s indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system. I appreciate everyone’s continued support and for keeping Athena’s name and memory alive. Please take a moment to hug your children and loved ones. No one is promised another day.”

Horner had been delivering a “You Can Be Anything” Barbie doll to Strand’s home. Mattel contacted Strand’s family and donated 2,000 Barbie dolls to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth in honor of Strand. She had once been hospitalized there for a few days and was given a pink stuffed “prayer bear,” her favorite. The bear was in her coffin during the funeral service.

Horner is staying in Wise County Jail on six bonds totaling $1,560,000. Unrelated to Strand’s case, he is also being held on four sexual assault charges of a child back from 2013.