Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
The grandfather of a 7-year-old Texas girl who was killed after being abducted from her home penned an emotional message on Facebook proclaiming he'd forgiven the alleged killer.
Athena Strand was kidnapped from her home in Paradise, Texas Wednesday. Tanner Lynn Horner, a contracted FedEx driver who authorities say had been dropping off a package at her home around the time of the abduction, allegedly confessed to killing the girl, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.
“This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want 5 minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him,” Athena's grandfather Mark Strand wrote.
He went on to say that he believed “hate is a powerful force that will take root in your soul.”
“Hate is the gateway for Evil we see growing in our world today,” he said. “If you stood that man before me right now, because of the hate that’s trying to root itself in my mind, I would probably kill him. Then that hate would root itself in my heart and I would be destroyed.”
Mark Strand said he was inspired by God to forgive Horner.
“There’s not one ounce of my flesh that wants to do this or say this, but my spirit has heard God’s voice and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man! Hate will not win,” he wrote. “I hope my family will understand that I don’t do this for the sake of this man. I do this for the sake of my family and myself and to Honor the voice of God who is giving me the strength to say this. I do this to honor our precious Athena who knew no hate. This man won’t be allowed any real estate to live in my brain, he belongs to God and God’s justice will done. Love Conquers All and Forgives. Today, I choose Love and hate loses.”
In a Facebook post of her own, Athena’s mother Maitlyn Presley Gandy described her daughter’s killer as a “sick, cruel monster.”
“Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent, and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet,” she wrote. “I don’t want her to be the girl known as the one murdered and discarded by a monster. I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me. I want everyone to know her face and her voice and just how wonderful of a person she is.”
Athena was last seen around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at her home by her stepmother.
Atkin said Athena and her stepmother had gotten into “a little bit of an argument” but noted it wasn’t “anything unusual.”
“There was that argument, then stepmom went to fix dinner, came back to get Athena, and Athena wasn’t in her room,” he said, according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
They were able to link Horner to the case after reviewing digital evidence and determining that a package had been dropped off at the home “about the same time” that Athena disappeared.
Akin said authorities believe the 7-year-old was killed within an hour of her abduction. Her body was discovered on a rural county road on Friday.
The killing has sent shockwaves through the Texas community Athena called home.
On Monday, more than 20 school districts in the area, including the Paradise Independent School District where Athena had gone to school, encouraged their students to wear pink in honor of Athena’s favorite color, CNN reports.
“We lost a precious member of our student body,” Paradise Independent School District Superintendent Rod Townsend wrote in the statement on social media. “Athena Strand was tragically lost this past week. This world will forever be different because she wasn’t allowed to grow and develop into the precious young lady she was meant to be.”
Horner, who is now facing charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping, is currently being held at the Wise County Jail on a $1.5 million bond.
Crime News is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.