Tanner Horner, 31, informed the police that he unintentionally struck 7-year-old Athena Strand with his delivery truck on November 30th. He tragically took the life of the girl without any weapons after becoming frightened when she mentioned her intention to inform her father about the small collision.
In the previous month, he was charged with a crime of capital murder. According to the police, two days after she went missing, Horner revealed to investigators the location of the deceased girl’s remains.
Horner’s lawyers, acting on behalf of their client, decided to forgo the arraignment and officially entered a plea of not guilty following the Monday morning hearing, according to Benson Varghese, an attorney who represents Maitlyn Gandy, Strand’s mother. Varghese made this statement outside the courthouse.
Horner, Varghese mentioned, remained silent during the hearing.
It was the first time she had been in the same room as the accused man when her daughter killed him. Gandy was in Wise County Courtroom Center Court.
Being there for her was of utmost importance, but it felt unreal in some ways. She has pondered over it for a long time, a moment that holds significant significance for her.
Around half of the law enforcement members, along with Gandy and approximately 20 others, were present in the courtroom during the investigation into her death and the search for the missing girl.
Varghese expressed, “It meant a lot to Maitlyn that she was warmly greeted and hugged by individuals who were involved in the investigation and came up to support her. There were at least 20 individuals from various law enforcement agencies in the courtroom, including rangers, sheriff, and constable. It was unusual that the courtroom was full of law enforcement officials. This was something that stood out that morning.”
The family is seeking damages of more than $1 million. Last month, Athena’s father, Horner, joined a civil lawsuit filed by her ex-husband against Topspin, Big Ground FedEx, the delivery service that Horner hired to deliver packages for Athena.
Varghese, the civil lawsuit stated that decision-makers, including those responsible for preventing the death of the girl, have additional abilities to investigate the circumstances surrounding the girl’s death.
Last month, prosecutors declared their intention to pursue the death penalty in the case of capital murder.
Athena’s esteemed reputation in Fort Worth, Cook Children’s Medical Center, generously contributed 2,000 Barbies and various playthings in January, courtesy of Mattel. As a special Christmas gift for Athena, a set of six Barbie dolls from the “You Can Be Anything” collection was delivered on the fateful day, as it was later discovered, by Horner.
Horner remains in Wise County Jail on six bonds totaling $1,560,000. In addition, Horner is also held on charges unrelated to the Strand case, dating back to 2013, involving four counts of child sexual assault.
There have been no additional court dates scheduled in the case.