Texas officials have issued an AMBER alert for 7 year old Athena Strand. Athena went missing from Paradise, Texas Wednesday, November 30th, around 5:30pm.
According to family members, Athena lives with her father, Jacob Strand, and step-mom, Lizzee Strand. Her mother, Maitlyn Presley Gandy lives approximately an hour and a half away in Oklahoma.
You can view their social media accounts here –
Step-mom, Lizzee –
Authorities have said Athena went missing after an argument with her step-mom, Lizzee. Lizzee told police she went to Athena’s room and noticed her missing, she searched for about an hour before calling police around 6:40pm to report Athena missing.
According to a now deleted tweet from Nick Starling with CBS DFW, it is not a rare occurrence for Athena to run away from home. However, Athena’s mother said that is untrue and she has only left home once before by herself.
There was some confusion as to what Lizzee was doing at the time Athena disappeared, according to Sheriff Akin, she was cooking dinner. “There was that argument then step-mom went to fix dinner, came back to get Athena, and Athena wasn’t in her room.” It is said that Athena’s father was on the way to a hunting trip at the time of her disappearance.
Wise County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the local Texas Ranger, the Fort Worth Police Department, the Bridgeport Police Department, several local fire departments, Wise County EMS and Search Rescue One (K-9 assisted) are all contributing to the search. Drones are also being used.
Members of the public have also started searching for Athena. They are meeting at First Baptist Church Cottondale. Police have urged the public to not show up at Athena’s fathers home.
At first they searched a six acre radius around Strand’s house. The search has since expanded, and also includes the FBI.
The AMBER Alert was issued at 2:10 p.m. Thursday, describing Athena as “endangered” and saying the “whereabouts are unknown and law enforcement believes the child’s safety and health are in danger.”
Additionally, they said foul play isn’t suspected and that Athena likely ran away. However, authorities are not ruling out someone took her.
“We’re looking at everything from the criminal standpoint or just a missing child so we’re not going to leave anything unturned and we’re not going to put the blinders on either,” said Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin. “It could be any number of things and we’re looking at all those possibilities.”
According to Athena’s family, she is afraid of the dark and would not run away.
Friday, December 2nd, police held a press conference to discuss the case. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said that the disappearance of Athena is now moving toward an investigation case rather than a search, there will still be spot searching.
The reason for the change in status is said to be because they were able to search the entire 6 acre property with no signs of Athena. At this time they do not suspect foul play, but it could be a possibility.
The Sheriff also said that all parents have been cooperative in the investigation. Akin also said that there has not been any previous calls to police from their address.
Athena was seen getting off of her school bus at 4:15pm the day of her disappearance.
It was confirmed that Athena’s stepmother was the only adult home at the time and her father was headed to South Texas for a hunting trip, when he got the call about Athena missing, he turned around.
“The mother and daughter had a little bit of an argument, which is not unusual for a 7-year-old and a stepmother,” said Akin. “Athena got upset and she walked away, as she has done in the past, but they expected she would come back.”
Another reason for concern stated by the Sheriff is the weather. It was reportedly 28° outside the night Athena went missing and she did not have a jacket on.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office says they have contacted all sex offenders in the area, but they do not believe it is a direct lead at this time.
K9’s used in the search picked up Athena’s scent around the house but no where else. Thermal drone searches also turned up nothing other than wildlife.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office is still urging anyone in the area to check any barns, vehicles or brush on their property for Athena.
According to Fox4News, Athena’s mother has sole custody of her daughter but allowed her to spend the fall semester in Texas with her father and stepmother. She was supposed to go back to live with her mother in December.
Friday evening a large police presence was searching a ditch approximately 7 miles from Athena’s home. According to CBS a car was also taped off.
After searching for more than 2 hours, the scene was cleared.
At 10pm, Friday, police confirmed they had found Athena deceased about 6 miles from her home. She was abducted from her home by a FedEx driver that was delivering a package.
Police said that she likely died within an hour of being taken based on digital evidence and on a confession.
The driver was named as Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, of Lake Worth. He is being held at the Wise County Jail on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping on a bond of $1.5 million.
Tanner is believed to be the only suspect associated with Athena’s disappearance.