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HomeNewsAthan Strand: Body of girl allegedly killed by FedEx driver found

Athan Strand: Body of girl allegedly killed by FedEx driver found

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A parcel delivery driver allegedly abducted a 7-year-old girl from her Texas home earlier this week before killing the child, police have said.

The chilling crime was revealed as police said on Friday night (US time) they found the body of Athena Strand, who was reported missing after she vanished from her bedroom on Wednesday.

The seven-year-old had returned from school in Paradise, about 100km northwest of Dallas, at around 4.30pm, before heading up to her bedroom, reported the US Sun.

Her stepmother is said to have reported her missing at approximately 6.40pm after being unable to find Athena.

Police believe she was taken from her driveway near the family’s gate, around 200 metres away from the property.

An child abduction amber alert was issued for the little girl on Thursday evening as concerns grew for her safety.

Hundreds of volunteers, dog teams, helicopters and police launched a hunt for Athena as they desperately tried to find her.

The FBI then teamed up with FedEx to help track down Horner, from Lake Worth, Texas, after compiling a string of digital evidence.

He reportedly confessed to kidnapping and killing Athena shortly after being apprehended by police.

But the FedEx employee gave officials at least two false locations before eventually leading them to her body, Sheriff Akin said.

Athena’s body was then discovered 10km away from her home, two days after she disappeared.

Some details about the location of her remains and the probe were withheld by authorities, as the investigation is still underway.

Cops are said to have cracked the heartbreaking case after receiving a tip off from a member of the public.

The caller described a driver in the area who made a delivery around the same time that Athena went missing.

The information was key in identifying Horner as a suspect and tracking him down.

A motive has not yet been established for the killing, although cops confirmed he was not related and did not know the family.

“Any time there is a child that dies, it hits you in your heart,” Sheriff Akin added.

“You compare that child to your own children when they were that age. It just takes the wind out of your sails.”

Horner is being held in county jail on a bond of $1.5 million (A$2.2m) after confessing to the crime.

The Texas Rangers investigators had already begun a search of the suspect’s home.

Athena’s family have been left “devastated” by the outcome of the tragic case.

Her father was reportedly on his way to South Texas for a deer hunting trip when he was informed of her death.

“The vast majority of the family is from Oklahoma, and they appreciated the fact that we care so much,” Sheriff Akin said.

“They’re devastated, they’re angry because of what happened. A precious child taken from their lives.”

Sherrin Akin said that Texas Rangers were escorting a car carrying the young girl’s body to a medical examiner’s office.

FedEx said in a statement on Friday: “Words cannot describe our shock at the reports surrounding this tragic event.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family during this most difficult time.”

Since Athena’s disappearance on November 30, over 200 volunteers and dozens of law enforcement officials have spent hours extensively searching for the seven-year-old in Paradise.

Little Athena was last seen at around 5pm on November 30 at her father’s home in the town.

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a frantic phone call from the child’s stepmother after she noticed Athena was not in her room.

Sherrin Akin said that the stepmum went to fix dinner, came back to get Athena and she wasn’t in her room.

The family searched for the little girl for about an hour looking before contacting the sheriff’s office at 6.40pm.

At the time of the search, authorities told local TV station WFAA-TV they suspected the child may have run away after the argument, but they also did not rule out the possibility that Athena was kidnapped.

Neighbours of the child refuted the police’s theory, saying it was out of character for the seven-year-old.

“The only time she left was to go to her grandmother’s house next door — and that’s family,” neighbour Melina Owens told the US’ ABC News.

“She’s not OK with being in the dark. She doesn’t like the cold.”

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office used helicopters, drones, thermal-imaging cameras, horses, dogs and ATVs to search for Athena.

The child’s biological mother took to social media to thank law enforcement officials and volunteers who were assisting in the search for her daughter.

“Thank you to my wonderful family and the large support from the Wise County community. We are continuing our search,” Maitlyn Gandy shared on Facebook a day after Athena was reported missing.

This story appeared in the US Sun and is reproduced with permission.

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