The mother of 7-year-old Athena Strand, who was killed after being kidnapped by FedEx driver Tanner Lynn Horner last week, was paying tribute to her daughter in a series of heartbreaking posts on Facebook.
On Tuesday, Maitlyn Gandy shared a video showing her youngest daughter, Rye, crying over her ‘sissy’ after Strand left to spend time with her father and stepmother in Paradise, Texas, before the holidays.
Athena was due to return to her mother and sister in Comanche, Oklahoma, for Christmas. According to Gandy, the video was recorded on November 27, little Athena was reported missing for the first time on November 30, and was found dead on December 2.
Gandy says the video shows Rye “begging for his sissy.” She says, “I kept telling him, ‘Okay, we’ll see you soon.’ Not knowing how twisted our lives would become. I took it because she does this every time she thinks Sissy is going somewhere without her.
Eventually, Gandy says, Rye cried herself to sleep. The grieving mother continued, “This monster has now extended those feelings for my youngest daughter indefinitely.”
Athena pictured with her younger sister, Rye, according to the couple’s mother, they hated being apart.
Athena’s mother posted the video along with this heartbreaking Facebook post.
To calm his daughter down, Gandy would say, ‘Okay, we’ll see Sissy soon.’ Just three days later, Athena would be reported missing.
In another post, Gandy wrote: “Dad and mom were afraid of how beautiful she’s always been and we felt like we let them down.” Nobody deserves what happened to you, but especially you. I love you and love doesn’t even cover it. Mommy is broken without you.
He also described his angel as “innocent, beautiful, childish, intelligent, and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet.”
Gandy continued, “I don’t want her to be the girl known to be the one killed and discarded by a monster.” I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me.’
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, faces charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping in the case. He is being held on a $1.5 million bond in the Wise County Jail.
Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, confessed to police that she kidnapped and murdered Athena on Wednesday afternoon.
Horner is being held in the Wise County Jail on charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin described the killing as a “crime of opportunity.”
Horner snatched Athena Strand from the driveway of her family’s home in Paradise, Texas, Wednesday afternoon, and was found dead 10 miles away on Friday. The police said that she was probably killed within an hour of her abduction.
On Monday, residents of Texas, as well as those of Comanche, Oklahoma, were asked to wear pink to celebrate Athena’s life. Pink was the favorite color of first graders.
The request in Wise County came from local judge JD Clark, who said: ‘My heart is very heavy for Athena. Also, I encourage everyone to join me Monday at 6:30 pm on the steps of the Courthouse to pray for Athena, her family, our first responders and our community.’
Hundreds gather for the vigil to celebrate Athena’s life in Wise County Monday night.
Athena Strand pictured with her mother Maitlyn Gandy. Gandy wrote on Facebook: “Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent and just the brightest, happiest soul you will ever meet.”
At the vigil, local resident Kayla McConnell said WFAA: ‘In a small town like this, you never think of something like this. Nothing compares to the pain that [the family is] go through. But this entire community has felt this. And we are all there with them. And we will support them and remember Athena every time we see pink.
On the day of the celebration, Gandy wrote on Facebook: “Athena also wore pink today in my mind.”
She added: “I love seeing all the photos of everyone in pink with ribbons and hearts, all pink tops and outfits.”
Gandy continued: “I did some driving today, everywhere I looked I saw shades of pink. I’ve had tears, it’s a bittersweet feeling to see all the support for Athena’s legacy.
She concluded: ‘I can’t thank everyone enough, but I hope you all know, I see you and so does my Athena. I have to believe that or I will break. Athena sees us. And I see Athena in all of you.
Gandy wrote: ‘I cannot describe the pain and utter anger I feel. Missing her doesn’t cover how I feel’
Authorities were only able to connect the dots between Athena’s disappearance and Horner’s delivery route after a tip-off.
Police connected Horner to the murder based on a tip and his FedEx delivery route that day.
Horner confessed shortly after his arrest and now faces capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges.
He is the only suspect authorities believe is responsible in the case, Sheriff Akin said. He had no ties to the family.
Athena’s grandfather, Mark Strand, said on Facebook that despite a part of him wanting ‘five minutes alone in a cell’ with Tanner Horner, 31, he decided to listen to another part that forgiveness was the only way for him and his family. family to recover.
“This man that I am is angry and I want five minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took Athena from us, but there’s a soft, gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him.” he wrote in an emotional Facebook post.
‘If I allow this hate to consume me, that voice will fade and eventually be silenced. Then that ugly spirit of hate will have triumphed and that’s why this sweet voice persists telling me that I need to forgive this man.
Mark Strand wrote that even though part of him wanted ‘five 5 minutes alone in a cell’ with Tanner Horner, 31, who kidnapped and killed his seven-year-old granddaughter Athena, he decided to listen to another part that he said forgiveness was the only way for him and his family to recover
According to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, the girl was dropped off from school at her home in Paradise at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The young woman was outside her home after an argument with her stepmother when Horner delivered a FedEx package to her home.
When Athena did not re-enter and could not be found in her bedroom, her stepmother reported her missing to the police around 6:40 p.m.
Police believe the girl was likely abducted from her driveway, just 200 yards from the safety of her home.
FedEx issued a statement late Friday expressing its condolences to the family: “Words cannot describe our shock at the reports surrounding this tragic event.” First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this very difficult time.”