Remembering Athena Strand: A Heartbreaking Anniversary
No one in Wise County will ever forget the chilling events that transpired precisely one year ago. The day remains etched in the memory of this tight-knit community, marking the tragic disappearance of 7-year-old Athena Strand from her home in the city of Paradise.
The Amber Alert and the Heartbreaking Outcome
The frantic search for Athena culminated in an Amber Alert, a beacon of hope that unfortunately ended in the worst way possible. Tanner Horner, now facing a capital murder charge, became intricately linked to Athena’s untimely demise.
Wise County Sheriff’s Perspective
Reflecting on that somber day, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin shared his initial realization about the missing child last November 30. “I just had a feeling that this is not right,” he somberly recalled. Athena had vanished from outside her father’s home, triggering a community-wide sense of urgency and concern.
A Community United in Grief
Though an Amber Alert was initially delayed, the community rallied together in the search for the vivacious 7-year-old who adored fashion and the color pink. Sheriff Akin remarked, “It really hurt this community, but I think it brought the community closer together.”
Tragedy Unfolds: Athena’s Memorial
Approximately 10 miles from her last known location, a roadside memorial now stands as a poignant reminder of where Athena was found, two days after her disappearance. Sheriff Akin vividly remembers delivering the heart-wrenching news to Athena’s shattered family.
Tanner Horner’s Shocking Charges
The investigation revealed that Tanner Horner, a FedEx driver at the time, had allegedly kidnapped Athena during a delivery at her home, later discarding her lifeless body in the Trinity River. The package intended for Athena contained Barbie dolls, transforming a joyful Christmas present into a tool of tragedy.
Legal Proceedings and Seeking Justice
Despite Horner pleading not guilty to capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, and sexual assault charges, the legal battle continues. Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, has filed a civil lawsuit against Horner, seeking accountability for the irreplaceable loss of her daughter.
Athena’s Law: Turning Tragedy into Advocacy
In a bittersweet turn of events, Texas lawmakers passed Athena’s Law in May. This legislative initiative empowers local police to swiftly issue a regional alert for a missing child, eliminating the agonizing wait for abduction confirmation by investigators.
A Call for Justice and Remembrance
As the legal proceedings unfold, Wise County District Attorney James Stainton emphasizes, “We are seeking justice for Athena.” The community, alongside law enforcement, hopes for a fitting punishment for the heinous crime that robbed Athena of her future.
Conclusion: A Community’s Resolve
On this solemn anniversary, Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, requests privacy as she reflects on the memories of her little girl. Wise County stands united in honoring Athena’s memory, demonstrating resilience in the face of tragedy.