Skip to content

Sheriff to seek death penalty for accused killer of Athena Strand


Murder suspect Tanner Horner is under close watch at the Wise County Jail as investigators work on an air tight case against him.

WISE COUNTY, Texas — The sheriff working the Athena Strand murder said Wednesday he will seek the death penalty for the accused abductor and murderer.

Investigators are keeping information about the case involving the murder of 7-year-old Athena Strand close to their vest. However, there are some new details about Athena’s accused killer who is behind bars at the Wise County Law Enforcement Center.

“He’s in a single cell by himself,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said. “Just not near booking.”

Akin said he has his deputies keeping a close eye on accused killer Tanner Horner. He expects to have the 31-year-old’s case turned over to the District Attorney by next week. 

Akin also said there is still information coming in from the public that his investigators are following up on so that they have an airtight case against Horner—especially since they plan to seek the maximum punishment against him.

“Because of the age of that child and because it was an abduction, we are going to pursue the death penalty,” Akin said.

Horner’s bond is $1.5 million, which was set during a jail hearing after his arrest.

In the video, investigators zeroed in on Horner, who was a contract driver for Fed Ex. The sheriff said he confessed to abducting Athena while delivering a Christmas package to their home and later killing her. 

There have been many residents and communities honoring Athena since officials announced the news of her death. Akin said he believes Athena has touched so many lives through her unfortunate death.

Sheriff Lane Akin said, “I do believe in time wise county will return to some semblance of normal. We will always remember, Athena.”

RELATED: Texans wear pink Monday in honor of 7-year-old Athena Strand

After speaking publicly for the first time during a candlelight vigil, Athena’s mother plans to go public with their family attorney this week. This comes while a community sends the message for Athena to Rest in Paradise.

“Paradise is a community seven and a half miles that way,” Akins said. “Paradise, that paradise like this world is fractured. But that marquee says rest in peace, in Paradise. So she’s exchanged a fractured Paradise for perfection.”

Akin said he not only credits his deputies for working nonstop on the Athena case but also their law enforcement partners, which include the Texas Rangers and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Their collaboration helped bring the search and investigation into the Athena Strand situation to a swift resolution.