Vigil held in Texas to honor 7-year-old Athena Strand

Dec 6, 2022, 8:23 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 1:05 pm
Attendees offer their respect to a makeshift memorial for late Athena Strand after a memorial servi...

Attendees offer their respect to a makeshift memorial for late Athena Strand after a memorial service at First Baptist Church of Cottondale in Paradise, Texas, on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Strand went missing from her home in Wise County last week and her body was found Friday evening. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

(Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

PARADISE, Texas (AP) — A 7-year-old Texas girl who was found dead last week after she was reported missing from her home is being remembered as “the best little girl” who loved animals, drawing and dancing.

Athena Strand was found dead Friday, two days after she was reported missing from her home in Paradise, Texas, a town of fewer than 500 people about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Dallas.

Police have arrested a FedEx delivery driver, Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, on suspicion of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. Authorities have not said how Athena died but Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said investigators believe she died shortly after she was kidnapped.

The sheriff said Horner, who had made a delivery at the girl’s home shortly before she disappeared, did not know the family.

At a vigil Tuesday night in Paradise, mourners gathered to remember Athena, many of them wearing pink. Her mother Maitlyn Gandy addressed the crowd, thanking those who helped search for her daughter after an Amber Alert was issued.

“I just want to keep her face and story alive,” Gandy said. She continued: “Because she was the best little girl.”

Horner remained jailed Wednesday on $1.5 million bond and records do not list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

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Vigil held in Texas to honor 7-year-old Athena Strand