The mother of a 7-year-old girl who officials claim was kidnapped and slain by a FedEx driver said she wanted the world to know about the “beautiful little girl” who would have gotten the Christmas present that driver delivered the day she vanished.
At a news conference on Thursday in Decatur, Texas, Maitlyn Gandy lamented, “I was robbed of witnessing her grow up.”
She was standing next to the “You Can Be Anything” Barbie box that was the gift.
Athena Strand was reported missing from the house of her father and stepmother in Paradise, a small community of fewer than 500 people located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Dallas, on December 1, and was found dead two days later on December 2.
According to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin, 31-year-old FedEx delivery driver Tanner Lynn Horner admitted to killing Athena and provided information about where to recover her body.
Horner was detained on suspicion of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, even though he didn’t know the family.
According to the sheriff, it was known from the beginning that a delivery had been made to the girl’s house around the time she vanished.
Although the authorities have not disclosed the cause of her death, Akin stated that investigators think she was murdered “an hour or so” after being abducted.
Athena was scheduled to return to her in Oklahoma, according to Gandy, who spoke in front of the Wise County courtroom in Decatur, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Paradise.
She said, “I’m not even close to being ready to let my baby go so that Athena will be cremated, and she will come home in an urn.
Gandy stated that her first-grader loved dancing, singing, and all animals, including dogs, cats, horses, lizards, and chinchillas.
She also loved school and her classmates.
“She was her father’s kid,” Gandy said, adding that Athena adored flowers and wasn’t afraid to get “down in the muck with the lads.”
When Athena went missing, the neighborhood “flew into action,” she said, adding that she had seen people wearing pink all over the place in her daughter’s honor.
Many of the mourners present at a vigil Tuesday night in Paradise to remember Athena wore pink.
Gandy stated, “I want everyone to hold your littles just a little bit tighter for me.
Benson Varghese, Gandy’s attorney, joined her at the press conference and stated that they were investigating anybody “engaged in the decisions that were taken that led to this awful tragedy.”
Horner was incarcerated on a $1.5 million bond on Thursday.
A lawyer who may represent him in court was not included in the jail’s records.