The former Texas FedEx driver accused of strangling a girl to death after striking her with his delivery truck has been indicted for capital murder, NBC DFW reports.
On Thursday, a grand jury indicted 31-year-old Tanner Horner on charges of aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under the age of 10 in connection with the death of 7-year-old Athena Strand on November 30.
Authorities allege that Horner accidentally hit Strand as he was backing up after delivering a Christmas package at the child’s home in Paradise, Texas. Although Strand was not seriously injured, Horner allegedly panicked and forced the girl into his truck, where he unsuccessfully tried to break her neck before fatally strangling her.
Horner is said to have admitted his actions to police and disclosed that the girl was speaking with him during the encounter, including telling him her name, FOX 4 reports.
The delivery driver allegedly confessed to police that he killed Strand because she was going to tell her dad about what happened.
Strand’s body was found days later, on December 2, 10 miles from her house.
Maitlyn Gandy, Strand’s mother, released a statement following the grand jury’s decision to indict Horner.
“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,” Gandy said, according to KTVT-TV.
She continued: “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.”
Police have said they intend to ask prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against Horner if he is convicted.
In unrelated allegations, Horner faces three charges of sexual assault of a child dating back to 2013.
Horner remains in custody on $1.5 million bond.
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[Featured image: Athena Strand/Facebook]