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FedEx driver kidnapped 7-year-old Texas girl who was found dead Friday, officials say

The body of Athena Strand, whose disappearance Wednesday prompted 200 volunteers to help in the search, was found Friday. A FedEx contract driver is in custody.

A FedEx contract driver in Texas was arrested Friday and charged in the kidnapping and murder of a 7-year-old girl who went missing two days earlier, officials said.

The disappearance of Athena Strand, who vanished Wednesday from her home in Paradise in Wise County, prompted a large search with around 200 volunteers from the community.

Athena Strand.
Athena Strand.KXAS

On Friday, authorities found her body southeast of the city of Boyd, a city about 11 miles away, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told reporters.

“We do have a confession,” Akin said at a news conference Friday night.

The driver, Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, was arrested on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, Akin said.

He was being held in jail in lieu of a $1.5 million bond Friday night. It was not immediately clear Friday night if Horner had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Athena arrived home from school Wednesday afternoon as she usually does, and at 6:40 p.m. her stepmother reported the child missing, Akin has said.

Horner delivered a package to the home around the time she was discovered missing, Akin said Friday night. Investigators believe the girl died within about an hour of the abduction, he said.

Officials at a news conference did not reveal a motive and did not say how the child died.

FedEx said in a statement that its thoughts are with the family, and the company is cooperating fully with law enforcement.

“Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow at the reports surrounding this tragic event,” FedEx said.

It directed other questions to law enforcement. It was not clear how long Horner had been a contract driver with the company.

Athena's disappearance prompted a search that included helicopters with thermal imaging, help from the Texas Rangers and neighboring police departments, and the FBI, among others, officials said. The Texas Department of Public Safety issued an Amber Alert.

Police investigate the disappearance of 7-year-old Athena Strand in Paradise, Texas, on Thursday.
Police investigate the disappearance of 7-year-old Athena Strand in Paradise, Texas, on Thursday.KXAS

James Dwyer, FBI special agent in charge of the Dallas field office, said investigators were able to look through digital evidence and work with FedEx in the investigation. He did not say what the digital evidence was.

Dwyer said he hoped the Strand family has some closure. “We know that they’re hurting, but we do offer our deepest condolences,” he said.

Akin said that when the child's body was taken to the medical examiner's office Friday, one Texas Ranger traveled in front and one behind the vehicle.

"This community does not like losing our children," he said. "And you can see it because of all the people who came out and helped us throughout this ordeal."