Chilling Instagram posts by the FedEx driver and aspiring musician accused of murdering seven-year-old Athena Strand have come to light, including images of a dagger, use of a racial slur and an obsession with dark song lyrics.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, is accused of snatching little Athena from her home in Paradise, Texas, before killing her and dumping her body in a ditch about six miles away.
Police said that he confessed to the heinous crime and is being held on charges of capital murder and kidnapping.
Following his arrest, the aspiring musician’s interest in dark song lyrics and disturbing social media posts have emerged.
In several social media posts, seen by The Independent, the suspect repeatedly uses a racial slur and in one he boasts about a dagger he says he received as a present.
“Dagger my older brother gave me YEARS ago!” he captioned an image of the gold blade in December 2014.
That same month, he posted a photo of himself in bed with the caption: “Layin in bed just thinking f*** you lol [n-word] im the shit! Haters gonna hate ^-^”
In another post, he simply shared an image of this quote: “I don’t understand how ppl are ok with themselves knowing they emotionally destroyed someone.”
Mr Horner often posted images of himself performing on stage, with one video from November 2018 capturing him screaming the lyric: “You’re slowly killing yourself.”
In another Instagram post from December 2014, he shared the lyrics from a 2014 song by artist Slaves.
“Sometimes I hear her cries. Silence is the dirtiest trick in life. If im so empty then why do I feel alive,” it reads.
“Lets go back for the last time. When you breathe you lie. Pretty thing keep your mouth closed and those legs tangled close.”
Based on his most recent posts from October 2021, Mr Horner appears to have recently become a father.
Just over one year later, the 31-year-old is behind bars accused of abducting and murdering the seven-year-old victim.
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 for dinner but she was nowhere to be found.
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, was delivering a package in the area at the time of her abduction.
He confessed to kidnapping and killing the little girl and told authorities where her body was, police said.
Athena is believed to have died 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.
He is facing charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping and is being held on $1.5m bond.
Athena’s devastated grandfather has spoken out to say that he forgives his granddaughter’s killer – but also wishes he could have “five minutes alone in a cell” with the suspect.
In the gut-wrenching social media post, Mark 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 article was amended on December 6 2022. It previously inaccurately stated that Tanner Horner penned the quoted song lyrics, but they were actually taken from a song by artist Slaves.