The Texas FedEx driver accused of strangling 7-year-old Athena Strand and dumping her body in a nearby river has been formally charged with kidnapping and murder in the case.
A Wise County grand jury indicted Tanner Horner, 31, Thursday on two charges of aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under 10, NBC5 reported.
Horner could face the death penalty if convicted on the capital murder charge. Police have requested that prosecutors pursue the death penalty.
Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, thanked the grand jury and called Horner’s indictment “the beginning of a long road through the justice system.”
The mom is in favor of the death penalty in Horner’s case, she previously told WFAA.
“I support the death penalty,” Gandy says. “Every breath he takes is one my daughter doesn’t.”
Horner allegedly told police he accidentally hit Athena with his delivery van on Nov. 30, at her father’s home in Paradise, Texas, roughly 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Although she was not severely injured, Horner tossed the girl into his truck, for fear that she would tell her father about the accident. He then strangled her and dumped the body in the Trinity River, roughly 10 miles from her house, authorities contend.
Horner, who had been dropping off a package that happened to be the girl’s Christmas present — a set of Barbie dolls — led police to the body two days after Athena’s stepmother reported her missing.
Horner is also facing three sexual assault charges dating back to 2013, which are not related to Athena’s case. He is currently being held in Wise County Jail. on $1.5 million bail.
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