Why did Tanner Horner kill Athena Strand? His motive

Athena Presley Monroe Strand was dropped off from school at 4.30 p.m. on 30th November 2022. Strand left home after an argument with her stepmother – she never returned. After Athena’s stepmother reported the child missing, hundreds of volunteers joined a multi-agency team searching for the little girl. 

On 2nd December 2022, authorities announced they’d arrested a FedEx driver who’d made a drop-off near Strand’s home around the time the little girl disappeared. The driver, Tanner Horner, had allegedly confessed to abducting and killing Athena. 

Horner directed authorities to the body’s location – in a ditch along the Trinity River near Boyd Road in Azle, Texas, six miles from the girl’s home. 

The County sheriff described Athena’s killing as a ‘crime of opportunity

Wise County sheriff Lane Akin described Athena’s slaying by Tanner as a ‘crime of opportunity’. It means that Tanner didn’t plan to abduct and kill Athena, but when the opportunity arose, he took it. 

A look at Horner’s Instagram page shows he harbored disturbing thoughts. Tanner repeatedly used racial slurs and bragged about weapons like a dagger allegedly gifted to him by his brother. In December 2014, he shared the following lyrics from a song by Slaves:

“Sometimes I hear her cries. Silence is the dirtiest trick in life. If I’m so empty then why do I feel alive. Let’s go back for the first time. When you breathe you lie. Pretty thing keep your mouth closed and those legs tangled close.”

The police believe Athena died within an hour of her abduction. Some people had speculated that Horner hit Athena with his FedEx vehicle, but there’s no indication of that. The authorities haven’t released further information about Athena’s death. 

“It’s one of the toughest investigations I have been involved in because it’s a child,” sheriff Akin told Fox 4. “Any time there’s a child that dies it just hits you in your heart.”

Horner’s neighbors told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Tanner lived with his mother and grandmother and often left for weeks at a time. “I find it shocking it was him,” an unidentified neighbor said. “You kind of forget that you never know who your neighbor is,” another neighbor added. 

Athena’s mother wants justice for her child; the girl’s grandfather has forgiven Horner

Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Presley Gandy, described Horner as ‘the monster that took my baby from me and this world’. Presley also thanked the authorities who processed her daughter’s crime scene: “It takes a special kind of person and whether a child is yours or not, working crime scenes involving children are hard.”

Maitlyn said she would not stop until she found justice for her child. She thanked the community for lobbying to move Tanner’s trial to another county or district in Texas. Gandy urged people to share Athena’s story as far and wide as possible. Maitlyn wrote on Facebook:

“I do not want the bastard that took my baby from me and brutally murdered her to go to any city, town, county, state, or country without every single person knowing her face. She no longer has a voice but I will be the best voice I can as a mother for her and I will not stop.”

Meanwhile, Athena’s grandfather, Mark Strand, said he’d forgiven Turner, despite his desire to see the killer ‘burn in hell for all eternity’. Mark said a ‘soft gentle voice’ had urged him to forgive, supplanting his appetite for revenge. Strand wrote of Facebook:

“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!”

Mark said he hoped his family understood that he’d forgiven Tanner for them and to honor God’s will. Strand concluded:

“I do this to honor 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 be done. Love Conquers All and Forgives. Today, I choose Love and hate loses.”

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