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FedEx contractor has yet to answer employment questions about murder suspect in Athena Strand case

The company's address, per arrest documents, is listed as a residential home in Dallas. FedEx wouldn't reveal to WFAA when Horner started driving for the company.

DALLAS, Texas — A Dallas contracting company that hired capital murder suspect Tanner Horner to drive for FedEx has yet to provide details about the 31-year-old's employment history or any hiring protocols he had to pass to drive for the shipping giant. 

Horner is charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping after telling investigators that he backed into 7-year-old Athena Strand while delivering a Christmas package to her home in Wise County last Wednesday. 

Per his confession, Horner panicked about the consequences of the accident and abducted little Athena, only to strangle her and dump her body in a rural part of Boyd. 

The contracting company that hired Horner, 'Big Topspin, Inc.,' was named in his arrest warrant and aided in his arrest per investigators. 

The address for the company was also listed in the documents and led WFAA to a four-bedroom home in North Dallas off River Hill Drive.

When WFAA arrived at the home, a woman who lived there could not comment about Horner's employment history or Strand's death but confirmed her husband owned the company. 

Contact information for WFAA was passed along, and a representative has yet to reach out about the mentioned inquiries. 

Across the country, FedEx relies on its 6,000 contractors that provide package pickup and delivery services using their employees. 

Per a FedEx spokesperson, "The employees of these service provider companies are subject to criminal history background checks as part of the driver eligibility process. As is common across the industry and considered standard employment practice, the background check process is administered by a third party."

Horner has no known criminal history, and FedEx didn't elaborate when asked questions about his employment. 

This week, WFAA reached out to the shipping giant and asked how long Horner had been contracted to work with FedEx, when he began driving for the company, how many drivers are contracted through Big Topspin, and what FedEx's prescribed hiring protocols are for Big Topspin. 

The spokesperson replied, "Service provider companies utilize their own employees, vehicles, and equipment. As such, we are not at liberty to discuss details of personnel employed by service providers."

These are all questions that attorneys for Strand's mother, Maitlyn Gandy, will likely start asking too. 

Gandy announced Thursday at a press conference in Wise County that Varghese Summersett of Fort Worth was representing her.

Attorneys for the firm revealed they would be investigating the situation and were prepared to hold anyone accountable for Athena's death responsible. 

That might very well end up being FedEx. But how could that play out litigiously? 

Attorney Mike Lyons of Lyons & Simmons, LLP in Dallas has been extensively speaking with WFAA on this topic. 

He reached a hefty settlement with Charter Communications after a third-party cable installer raped a 72-year-old woman with Alzheimer's in Dallas in 2017.

Lyons has also been in court with FedEx before. 

"Companies have really slick, good-looking policies on paper, and they're great theoretical constructs. The question is whether or not in practice they're actually doing what they say they should be doing," Lyons said. 

"If this guy is going to show up in your front yard, he needs to be properly vetted, trained, and someone needs to make sure that this guy is not some type of threat. The big question is, how does this guy end up driving for FedEx, and what is his past?" 

Lyons said most don't realize that people delivering packages for FedEx don't actually work for the company but still wear their logo as a third-party driver. 

"The guy behind the wheel may not be an employee -- he may be some guy working for some other contractor," Lyons said. 

And even so, FedEx may face liability for what happened to little Athena -- even if Horner had no criminal past and he belonged to a third-party contractor. 

Lyons' most important question, if he were on the case, was whether Horner or Big Topspin was fit to be contractors for the company in the first place. 

"There's law in Texas that says if you don't exercise reasonable diligence in hiring a contractor and you hire someone who's unfit, then you may have liability," Lyons said.

"FedEx requires guidelines, procedures, and protocols where they are exercising control over their contractor. Otherwise, they can't have these guys driving around in their trucks. You either are, or you aren't controlling the details of their work. And if it turns out that they are, whether, through their hiring practices or their supervision, they may have liability."

Right now, there are more questions than answers. Some of them landing at the feet of a residential home in Dallas that oversees getting FedEx packages to people's homes. 

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