FedEx Driver Charged in Kidnapping and Killing of Girl, 7, Officials Say

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A search for a missing 7-year-old Texas girl ended with the discovery days later of her body and a FedEx contract driver being charged in her kidnapping and killing, the authorities said on Friday.

The search for the girl, Athena Strand, began on Wednesday in Paradise, Texas, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Nearly 200 volunteers and numerous law enforcement agencies, using dogs and a helicopter with thermal imagining, participated in the search.

Her body was found on Friday but the authorities declined to specify where.

The authorities identified the FedEx driver as Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, and said he had been charged with aggravated kidnapping and capital murder of a person under 10 years old.

The authorities said that Mr. Horner did not know the family or the girl and that Athena had been taken from near her home.

The Wise County sheriff, Lane Akin, said that Mr. Horner confessed to killing the girl and said the authorities believed that she had been killed within an hour of being abducted. They declined to specify how she died or what led them to believe that she died within an hour of her abduction.

“It’s been a really, really tough few days and I’m really proud of the people here who helped us get some resolution, to get some understanding to provide answers for the families,” Sheriff Akin said during a news conference on Friday.

The authorities said that Athena had stepped off her school bus and arrived home in Paradise on Wednesday around 4:15 p.m. Officials did not specify if anyone was home at the time.

Then, around 6:40 p.m., Athena’s stepmother called 911 to report the girl missing. The authorities arrived at the home within 14 minutes, Sheriff Akin said, and an Amber Alert was issued.

Sheriff Akin said that a tip that came in on Friday helped to identify Mr. Horner.

“We knew early on in the investigation that a FedEx driver made a delivery in front of the house about the same time that little Athena, 7-year-old Athena, came up missing,” the sheriff said. “And continued good work by this investigative team, they were able to determine that the driver abducted Athena.”

James J. Dwyer, the acting special agent in charge at the F.B.I. office in Dallas, said that “digital evidence and partnerships with FedEx” had helped identify Mr. Horner. He did not offer specifics about the digital evidence.

The authorities said Mr. Horner is from Lake Worth, though court records show a Fort Worth address. He was being held at the Wise County Jail on $1.5 million bond. It was not clear on Saturday if Mr. Horner had a lawyer.

Approximately 840,000 children are reported missing each year, according to the Child Crime Prevention and Safety Center.

“Nonfamily abductions include kidnappings committed by acquaintances and strangers,” the center said. Acquaintance abductions make up 27 percent of all child abductions, it said, adding that abductions by strangers typically happen in outdoor locations.

In a statement on Twitter, FedEx said it was cooperating with the authorities.

“Our thoughts are with the family of Athena Strand during this most difficult time,” the statement said. “Words cannot describe our shock and sorrow surrounding this tragic event.”

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