(TARRANT COUNTY, Texas) — A district attorney in Texas will seek the death penalty against a man accused of kidnapping and murdering 7-year-old Athena Strand while he was working as a FedEx contract driver.
Tanner Lynn Horner was arrested and charged with capital murder for a person under 10 years of age and aggravated kidnapping in December. He was held on $1.5 million bond.
District Attorney James Stainton filed court documents in federal court this past week informing the judge that he will seek the death penalty against Horner if he is found guilty of capital murder, a crime that qualifies for the death penalty under Texas law.
Horner, 31, confessed to abducting and killing Strand while he was delivering packages to her family’s home.
Horner is also facing two counts of sexual assault against a child in Tarrant County Court, according to jail records obtained by ABC News. He is being held on a $15,000 bond for each count. The charges are unrelated to Strand, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Police found Strand’s body southeast of Boyd, Texas. Digital evidence and interviews led investigators to believe that Strand died within an hour of her abduction, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.
Horner, who was working as a contract FedEx driver, was not related and did not know the family, Akin said in December.
The driver was delivering a package that contained what was Athena’s Christmas present, her mother, Maitlyn Gandy, said at a press conference in December.
Horner told police that he accidentally hit Athena with his truck while backing up, panicked and put Athena in the van, according to the arrest warrant. He went on to tell police that Strand was alive and talking to him when he tried to break her neck. After he failed to do so, Horner said he strangled her.
Horner told police during the interview that he strangled Athena because she was going to tell her father about being hit by the FedEx truck, documents show.
On Feb. 17, the presiding judge also approved Horner’s request that the court hire an investigator for the case, claiming that the nature of the charge is “complicated” and the “defendant cannot be afforded effective assistance of counsel without the appointment of an investigator,” according to court documents.
Horner’s lawyer told ABC News they would not comment as the case was ongoing.
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