According to police, a FedEx driver abducted a 7-year-old girl from her Texas home earlier this week before killing the child.
The heinous crime was revealed as police announced Friday night that they had discovered the body of Athena Strand, who had gone missing after disappearing from her bedroom on Wednesday.
Tanner Lynn Horner, a FedEx driver, is believed to have delivered a package to her home around the time she vanished, according to CBS.
Horner, 31, allegedly admitted to kidnapping the young girl from her home in Paradise, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth. He is accused of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.
“We knew early on in the investigation that there had been a FedEx driver, made a delivery in front of the house, about the same time that little Athena, 7-year-old Athena, went missing,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said at a press conference late Friday.
Investigators have “digital evidence” that Horner committed the crime, but they did not elaborate. The accused murderer is being held in jail on $1.5 million bail.
Akin believes Athena died “within an hour or so of her departure from her home.” Police would not say how Athena died, only that she was discovered southeast of Boyd, about 10 miles from her Paradise home.
Athena was reported missing at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday after her stepmother was unable to locate her in the house.
“We know there was a little bit of an argument between her and her stepmother last night, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told NBC 5. “There was that argument, then step-mom went to make dinner, returned to get Athena, and she wasn’t in her room.”
According to Akin, the stepmother searched for Athena for about an hour before reporting the young girl missing.
Police believed she left the house on her own but became disoriented. Officials waited until Thursday morning to issue an Amber Alert because her family told police that Athena had done this before and officials hoped to find her during the night, according to WFAA.
However, Athena’s family told police that the girl is afraid of the dark and that she would not leave the house alone.
“We definitely don’t believe Athena ran away,” Athena’s aunt and Athena’s mother’s sister, Keeland Kulbeth, told NBC 5.
The police did not dismiss the possibility of criminality or kidnapping.
The disappearance of Athena sparked a massive search. Around 200 people worked with various Texas departments to search an estimated 50 acres in Paradise. The outpouring of support was so overwhelming that the Wise County Office of Emergency Management asked volunteers to refrain from showing up to search parties.
The search was ongoing until Friday. Thermal imaging was used by helicopters during the night searches to detect signs of Athena, according to Akin.