Athena Strand’s mother says her ‘princess’ was kidnapped by a ‘cruel monster’

The heartbroken mother of Texan student Athena Strand described the suspect who allegedly confessed to her murder as a “sick and cruel monster”.

Athena, 7, went missing from her home in Paradise, Texas on Wednesday after having a disagreement with her stepmother.

His body was found in a ditch seven miles from the property on Friday. Police arrested FedEx contract driver Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, on capital murder and kidnapping charges.

Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday that she was struggling to describe “the pain and sheer anger” she felt towards the alleged killer.

“My princess was taken from me by a sick and cruel monster for no reason at all,” she wrote alongside a homemade video of three-year-old Athena.

“Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent and simply the brightest and happiest soul you will ever meet. I don’t want her to be the girl known as the one killed and discarded by a monster.

“I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and that my baby has been taken from me.”

In a later post, Ms. Gandy said that Mr. Horner’s trial may be moved to another county due to the large community involvement in Athena’s search.

He asked the public to help keep Athena’s story in the spotlight.

“I don’t want the bastard who took my little girl from me and brutally killed her to go to any city, town, county, state or country without every single person knowing his face.”

Athena Strand, 7, went missing from her home in Paradise, Texas on Wednesday (Facebook/Maitlyn Gandy)

Athena’s family asked County Wise schools to get students to wear pink, her favorite color, on Monday in her memory.

Ms. Gandy has also set up a GoFundme page to help the family with expenses.

Athena was last seen alive in her home at 200 Block of County Rd 3573 in Paradise, at about 5:40pm Wednesday.

Her stepmother reported her missing about an hour later, sparking a massive search involving several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies using thermal imaging canine units and helicopters.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin announced at a late night news conference Friday that Athena’s body had been found and a FedEx driver Tanner Horner had been arrested.

The suspect allegedly confessed to kidnapping Athena and killing her about an hour later before disposing of her body, Akin told reporters.

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