The grandfather of seven-year-old Athena Strand, who was kidnapped by a FedEx driver from her driveway in Paradise, Texas, and murdered has said he forgives 31-year-old Tanner Horner (the kidnapper), despite the anger and hatred he felt in addition to wanting ‘five minutes alone in a cell’ with him.
Mark Strand revealed he decided to listen to another part of him that convinced his soul that forgiveness was the only way for him and his family to recover.
Last Wednesday afternoon, Horner snatched Athena from her family home driveway. Two days later, she was found dead 10 miles away. Police said she was most likely killed within an hour of her kidnapping.
After being arrested, Horner confessed and now faces aggravated kidnapping and capital murder charges. Horner doesn’t have any connection to the family and is the only suspect authorities believe is responsible in the case. Police believe Aethna was most likely abducted 200 yards away from the house.
Strand disclosed his decision to forgive Horner was like a battle between good and evil. In a touching post on Facebook, he wrote:
‘This man I am is angry, and I want five minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft, gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him,’ he wrote in an emotional Facebook post.
‘If I allow this hate to consume me, that voice will fade and eventually be silenced. Then that ugly spirit of hate will have succeeded and that’s why this gentle voice persists to tell me I need to forgive this man.’
‘There’s not one ounce of my flesh that wants to do this or say this, but my spirit has heard God’s voice, and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man!’
‘Hate will not win. I hope my family will understand that I don’t do this for the sake of this man. I do this for the sake of my family and myself and to Honor the voice of God who is giving me the strength to say this. I do this to honor our precious Athena who knew no hate.’
‘Love Conquers All and Forgives. Today, I choose love and hate loses,’ he concluded.
Wise County Sheriff’s Office reports Aethna was dropped off at home from school at her home at 4.30 pm on Wednesday.
After an argument with her stepmother, she was outside the house when Horner delivered a FedEx package to their house.
Her stepmother reported her missing to the police at about 6:40 pm when she was nowhere to be found. Athena had been spending time with her father and stepmother in Texas and was scheduled to return to her mother in Oklahoma for Christmas.
Athena’s mom Maitlyn Gandy described Horner as a ‘sick, cruel monster.’ She expressed her feelings in a recent Facebook post: ‘I cannot describe the pain and absolute anger I feel. Missing her doesn’t cover how I feel.’
In another post, she said: ‘Athena is innocent, beautiful, kind, intelligent, and just the brightest, happiest soul you could ever meet,’ she said after Horner confessed.
‘I don’t want her to be the girl known as the one murdered and discarded by a monster. I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me.’
In another, she wrote: ‘I want everyone to know, every single person in this world, that this is my baby and my baby was taken from me. I want everyone to know her face and her voice and just how wonderful of a person she is.’
Tamera Glenn writes on happenings around the world.