Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Sharp

Athena Strand’s grandfather says he forgives ‘psycho’ FedEx driver accused of abducting and murdering her

Facebook / Maitlyn Gandy

The devastated grandfather of murdered seven-year-old Athena Strand has said that he forgives the “psycho” FedEx driver accused of abducting and killing her – but also wishes he could have “five minutes alone in a cell” with the suspect.

Mark Strand broke his silence in a heartbreaking Facebook post on Sunday after his granddaughter’s body was discovered around six miles from her home in Paradise, Texas, and 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner was arrested on charges of murder and kidnapping.

In the gut-wrenching social media post, Mr Strand spoke of his turmoil as he said he wants Mr Horner “to burn in hell for all eternity” but that his faith is pushing him to want to forgive.

“This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want 5 minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him,” he wrote.

“This flesh man, wants that psycho to burn in hell for all eternity, yet that gentle voice continues to tell me, I need to forgive him. This flesh man hopes he remains blind and deaf to the message of salvation and never sets foot in the same heaven that I know in my heart my darling Athena resides in now and yet, that gentle voice persists. Why you ask?”

Mr Strand said that he would “probably kill” Mr Horner if he saw him in person now but that he must “choose love” for the sake of his grieving family.

“Because Hate is a powerful force that will take root in your soul. God wants to protect us all from that hate. Hate is the gateway for the Evil we see growing in the world today. If you stood that man before me right now, because of the hate that’s trying to root itself in my mind, I would probably kill him,” he said.

“Then that hate would root itself in my heart and I would be destroyed.”

He added: “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. It’s for my protection and my peace. It’s to set me free from this hate and allow me to continue to hear God’s gentle voice. 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.

“I hope my family will understand that I don’t do this for the sake of this man. I do this for the sake of my family and myself and to Honor the voice of God who is giving me the strength to say this. I do this to honor our precious Athena who knew no hate. This man won’t be allowed any real estate to live in my brain, he belongs to God and God’s justice will done. Love Conquers All and Forgives. Today, I choose Love and hate loses.”

Athena vanished without a trace from her home in Paradise on Wednesday (30 November).

The little girl had been dropped off from school at around 4.30pm and was last seen alive at about 5.40pm after she had a quarrel with her stepmother.

Around an hour later, her stepmother went to find the seven-year-old in her room to have dinner but she was nowhere to be found.

Athena Strand, 7, disappeared from her home in Paradise, Texas, on Wednesday (Facebook / Maitlyn Gandy)

Athena was reported missing and, the next day, an Amber Alert was issued.

For the next two days, hundreds of law enforcement officers, family members and local volunteers combed the area desperately trying to find her as her family insisted she wouldn’t have gone off on her own.

Hopes of her safe return were then destroyed on Friday when police confirmed that her body had been discovered in a ditch around six miles from her home.

Police said that Mr Horner, a FedEx driver, aspiring musician and former Uber driver, had confessed to snatching and killing the little girl and had directed authorities to the whereabouts of her body.

Speaking at a press conference, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said that Mr Horner was delivering a package in the area at the time of her abduction.

Based on the suspect’s confession, Athena was killed within an hour of her abduction.

No motive has been given. Mr Horner has no known criminal record and is not believed to have any connection to the little girl or her family.

Tanner Horner, 31, has been arrested on abduction and capital murder charges (Wise County Jail)

He is facing charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping and is being held on $1.5m bond.

Following his arrest, the aspiring musician’s chilling song lyrics have emerged: “Sometimes I hear her cries. Silence is the dirtiest trick in life. If im so empty then why do I feel alive.”

FedEx released a statement expressing its thoughts for Athena’s family.

“Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding this tragic event,” the company said.

“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.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.