The mother of Athena Strand—the Oklahoma child who was allegedly abducted and murdered by a FedEx driver while playing on her father’s property in Paradise, Texas, last week—says the courier who took her daughter was there to deliver her Christmas present: a set of You Can Be Anything Barbie dolls.
“I was robbed of watching her grow up by a man everyone was supposed to be able to trust to do one simple task: deliver a Christmas present and leave,” said Maitlyn Gandy during a press conference on Thursday, presenting the package through tears.
“I want everyone to know Athena. She was an amazing little girl,” Gandy said. “A monster attempted to take Athena’s voice, but we are her voice. Screening and hiring policies must be put into place so monsters wearing delivery uniforms do not show up at our doorsteps.”
Police initiated a desperate search-and-rescue operation for the 7-year-old after she was reported missing on Nov. 30, finding her body just two days later. Authorities have not yet disclosed the details of her murder.
“Athena will be cremated, and she will come home in an urn because I’m not anywhere close to being ready to let my baby go,” Gandy added.
During a late Friday press conference, the Wise County Sheriff’s office announced that they had arrested a suspect: Tanner Lynn Horner, a 31-year-old FedEx contract driver, who they say admitted to the crime. He is charged on suspicion of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping and is being held on a $1.5 million bond. Horner is not believed to have known the family prior to the abduction.
“We really can’t get into the content of the confession, but I will say we have a confession,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said.
“At this point, I’m not going to include or exclude anyone from a potential lawsuit,” said Gandy’s attorney, Benson Varghese, calling for tips from the public in their investigation to hold FedEx responsible for the child’s murder. “We’re leaving no stone unturned in looking at all the decisions that had to have happened before this tragedy occurred.”
“Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event,” said FedEx in a statement last week.