The FedEx driver accused of killing 7-year-old Athena Strand in late November is now facing new charges. Horrible ones.
According to Wise County jail records, not only was Tanner Lynn Horner charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, he has also been charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child. However, Sheriff Lane Akin explained to the Wise County Messenger on Wednesday that these new charges, which were filed out of Tarrant County, are unrelated to the murder case!
Authorities have not released any more details at this time. But according to People, following Tanner’s arrest, a woman named Shay Marie came forward to claim he had sexually assaulted her as a minor. She reportedly first spoke about the alleged assault on her since-deleted Facebook page in 2019, claiming he raped her when she was 16 years old and he was 23. She then wrote last year:
“December 6th and 7th marks 7 years since you violated me and treated me like you were entitled to my body. 7 years. i was a child in a vulnerable state and you took advantage of that.”
It is unknown if a report was filed or if Tanner was ever previously charged for the alleged assault. We’ll have to see if these new charges affect how a jury sees the Strand case — and the driver’s claim that her death began as an accident.
As we’ve reported, the delivery man was already in legal trouble for the horrific murder of Athena. She had returned to her Paradise, Texas, home from school on November 30 and got into an argument with her stepmother, Elizabeth Strand. Later on, the stepmom couldn’t find Athena in her room and searched for her for about an hour before calling the police to report her missing. Law enforcement believed Athena ran away at first, but she was found dead on December 2 near a river about nine miles from her home.
Their investigation soon led to Tanner, who had delivered a Christmas present, a box of “You Can Be Anything” Barbie dolls, to the home the same day Athena was taken and killed. He was arrested and confessed to the murder. According to Tanner, he accidentally hit the kid with his delivery van while delivering the packages to her house. While Tanner claimed she wasn’t seriously injured, he told investigator he panicked that she would tell her father about the incident, so he killed her inside the van. Per an affidavit, Tanner said he first tried to break Athena’s neck before strangling her “with his bare hands.” Awful.
Since Athena’s death, her family has been open about how hard this unimaginable tragedy has been, including her mom Maitlyn Gandy who said in a previous press conference:
“Athena was robbed the opportunity to be anything she wanted to be. 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. I want everyone to know Athena. She was an amazing little girl. 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.”
At this time, it is unknown if Tanner has entered a plea, but the District Attorney’s office announced earlier this month that they will seek the death penalty for his case. It seems to us his fight for life just got a lot tougher…
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and would like to learn more about resources, consider checking out https://www.rainn.org/resources.
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