Maitlyn Gandy, the mother of Athena Strand, a 7-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in Texas in November 2021, expressed her gratitude towards the grand jury for indicting the man accused of her daughter’s murder. Tanner Horner, a FedEx driver, was arrested in December 2021 after he allegedly strangled Athena to death after hitting her with his vehicle while making a delivery to her home on November 30, 2021.
According to court records, Horner was indicted on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping by the Wise County grand jury on Thursday. Gandy thanked the grand jury in a statement provided to CNN affiliate WFAA and appreciated their work, acknowledging that the facts and circumstances surrounding her daughter’s kidnapping and murder were difficult for them to hear.
While Horner’s indictment marks the beginning of a long road through the justice system, Gandy expressed her gratitude for everyone’s continued support and urged people to hug their loved ones, emphasizing that no one is promised another day.
In December 2021, Strand’s family filed a lawsuit against FedEx and one of its subcontractors, Big Topspin, Inc., for gross negligence, and Horner for assault, seeking more than $1 million in damages. The lawsuit claimed that Horner was employed through a subcontractor, Big Topspin, Inc., and delivered packages for FedEx Ground.
In response to the lawsuit, FedEx stated that they were aware of the complaint filed against FedEx Ground, and their thoughts remained with Athena’s family.
Horner was also charged in December 2021 with the sexual assault of children under the age of 17 in three separate incidents in 2013. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin confirmed that the charges were unrelated to the Strand case and came to light following Horner’s arrest.
The Fort Worth Police Department’s investigation revealed that Horner allegedly sexually assaulted children in June, August, and December 2013. The minor victims were not identified, and the charges came out of Tarrant County, according to charging documents.
In the wake of the tragic death of Athena Strand, a 7-year-old girl from Paradise, Texas, who was allegedly kidnapped and killed by a FedEx driver, a new lawsuit has been filed against the company seeking compensation for “acts and omissions” that led to her death. According to reports, the lawsuit seeks to implement better hiring, training, and supervising practices to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
Creating Change at FedEx
Gandy’s filing to join the lawsuit noted that her lawyers were looking to create change at FedEx. They wrote that it was about implementing better hiring, training, and supervising practices to prevent vicious killers from arriving at our doorsteps bearing an insignia that has been cultivated to instill trust. It is about preventing billion-dollar organizations from insulating themselves from liability by using fly-by-night contractors instead of acknowledging the responsibility they bear when we trust them to come on our property, to our doorsteps, and even inside our homes.
In response to the lawsuit, a FedEx spokesperson shared a statement with PEOPLE expressing condolences to Athena Strand’s family and acknowledging the complaint filed against FedEx Ground. The 18-page lawsuit is seeking fair and reasonable compensation for the loss of Athena Strand, which it claims could have been prevented.
The Tragic Death of Athena Strand
Athena Strand was found dead about 200 yards from her home in Paradise, Texas, last year. She was first reported missing by her stepmom on Nov. 30, after the pair had reportedly gotten into a disagreement. The FedEx driver, Horner, was delivering packages in her neighborhood at the time of the disappearance. He later confessed to killing her after hitting her with his van, as he panicked that her father would be upset that he’d hit her. Horner is being held in Wise County jail on murder and kidnapping charges and has also been charged with three counts of sexually assaulting a child.
Fighting for Change
Gandy, who has joined the lawsuit, spoke out about the tragedy and the need for change. She was robbed of watching Athena grow up by a man everyone was supposed to trust to just one simple task, deliver a Christmas present and leave. She was an amazing little girl who loved singing, dancing and all animals. Athena also loved flowers, but she wasn’t afraid to get down in the mud with the boys. She was her father’s daughter.
Gandy vowed to work towards ensuring extensive background checks are implemented among delivery companies and that screening and hiring policies are put in place so that monsters wearing delivery uniforms don’t show up on our children’s doorsteps.
The tragic death of Athena Strand has brought to light the need for better safety measures and hiring practices within the delivery industry. While the lawsuit seeks compensation for Athena’s death, it also seeks to create change and ensure that such tragedies do not occur again in the future. The hope is that through increased awareness and action, we can prevent similar incidents from happening and protect our children from harm.