WISE COUNTY, Texas — Tanner Horner, the man accused of killing 7-year-old Athena Strand in November 2022, has been indicted by a Wise County grand jury for capital murder, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin confirmed to WFAA.
Horner was indicted on the capital murder charge, as well as aggravated kidnapping, on Thursday. Horner, 31, is accused of abducting and killing Strand on Nov. 30, 2022. Strand's body was found on Dec. 2.
"I would like to thank the Wise County grand jury for their role in this process. Hearing the facts and circumstances of my 7-year-old daughter's kidnapping and murder was undoubtedly very difficult for them. I want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated," said Strand's mother, Maitlyn Gandy.
Police said Horner told them he had accidentally hit Athena with his truck while he was backing up. According to the arrest affidavit, Horner said Strand was not seriously injured in that collision but said he panicked just the same and put her in the van.
The affidavit also said that Horner further told investigators Strand was talking to him after she was hit, even telling him her name. Once inside the van, the affidavit said, Horner told police he tried to break Athena's neck -- and when that didn't work, he told police, he strangled her with his bare hands in the back of the van.
Horner told police multiple times he strangled Athena because she was going to tell her father about being hit by the FedEx truck Horner was driving, the affidavit stated.
Horner is currently being held in the Wise County jail and has a $1.5 million bond. Police have said they plan to ask prosecutors to seek the death penalty if he is convicted of the charges.
"Tanner Horner's indictment is the beginning of a long road through the justice system. I appreciate everyone's continued support and for keeping Athena's name and memory alive. Please take a moment to hug your children and loved ones. No one is promised another day," said Gandy.
Horner also faces three additional charges of sexual assault of a child, unrelated to Strand's case. Those charges stem from three incidents in 2013. It is unclear if the charges are related to the same person or three separate people.