WISE COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - Authorities found the body of 7-year-old Athena Strand, a missing Texas girl now known to have been abducted and killed by a FedEx driver Friday night, the sheriff said Wise County, Lane Akin.
The suspect, identified by the sheriff as Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, of Lake Worth, Texas, allegedly confessed and is now in custody on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. Horner's bail was set at $1.5 million.
“It's one of the most difficult investigations I've ever been involved in because it involves a child, and anytime it involves a child who died, it breaks your heart,” Akin said.
Athena was last seen at her father's home at 3573 County Road in Paradise, Texas around 6 pm on Wednesday, November 30.
Sheriff Akin said investigators knew all along that a Fed Ex driver made a delivery in front of Athena's home around the same time she went missing.
On the night of Friday, December 2, investigators looking for Strand duct-taped a car on County Road 4599 at Texas 114 in Boyd, Texas, about seven miles from where Athena was last seen.
The sheriff announced shortly after 10 p.m. that the girl's body had been found.
Investigators said they obtained evidence indicating that Horner abducted the girl near her driveway, which is about 200 yards, or two football fields' lengths, from the residence itself.
“We believe Athena died about an hour after” she was abducted, the sheriff said.
Investigators said "digital evidence" and cooperation from Fed Ex led authorities to Horner.
This is a developing story.
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Wise County Sheriff: Missing 7-year-old girl's case moves from search to investigation
For the past hour, investigators have been actively targeting a cordoned off ditch area about seven miles from Athena Strand's home, but there is no word on why. The sheriff says the girl's family claims she left her home after an argument with her stepmother in the Paradise community, 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
WISE COUNTY, Texas - The Wise County Sheriff's Office says they are transitioning from a search with an investigation to an investigation with a search as they search for 7-year-old Athena Strand, who went missing from her Wise County home. Wednesday night.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin says they don't suspect a crime at this time, but it could be a possibility.
"We have to keep looking, we have to keep investigating and following every lead," Deputy Chief Craig Johnson said.
Athena's biological mother appeared at the press conference on Friday. She did not want to speak on camera, but she said that she is desperate to have her daughter in her house.
FOX 4's Macy Jenkins was speaking with neighbors Friday afternoon at County Road 4599 when police approached them and told them to come back immediately.
Authorities appear to be focused on a ditch on the side of the road. It is still unclear what was discovered or if it is related to Athena's disappearance.
Meanwhile, the sheriff says the focus of this case has shifted toward an investigation rather than a search.
An AMBER Alert was issued for Athena on Thursday, although the sheriff has no evidence to indicate that she was abducted. The sheriff said there is no clear evidence of a kidnapping, such as a vehicle or description of the suspect. But with Athena missing for so long, he says the alert is necessary.
READ MORE: AMBER Alert issued for 7-year-old Wise County girl
Athena got off her school bus on Wednesday at 4:15 p.m.
Athena's stepmother called 911 at 6:40 pm to report her missing from her home in Paradise. She told investigators that there was an argument and then the girl was not in her room. The sheriff says he waited an hour to notify authorities because he went to pick up the girl first.
"The mother and daughter argued a bit, which is not unusual for a 7-year-old girl and a stepmother," Akin said. "Athena got upset and walked away from her, like she had done in the past, but they expected her to come back."
Athena was last seen wearing a shirt, jeans with flowers in the pockets, and brown boots.
The search involved a large group of law enforcement officers, more than 300 volunteers, dog teams, helicopters and thermal imaging technology. Still, no sign of Athena.
"We were able to cover a lot of area and talk to tons of people faster than we would have without them," Wise County Deputy Chief Craig Johnson said.Wise County Sheriff Updates Search for Athena Strand
The Wise County Sheriff's Office says they are transitioning from a search with an investigation to an investigation with a search as they search for 7-year-old Athena Strand, who went missing from her Wise County home Wednesday night. .
Now the focus of the case has shifted to an investigation with some targeted searches as leads develop.
Sheriff Akin says that means his office will have more resources.
“The FBI is helping us with digital resources and investigative support,” he said.
Akin says the girl's stepmother was the only home for adults at the time of her disappearance. Her father was headed to South Texas on a deer hunting trip when he was told what happened.
The Wise County Sheriff's Office says both the girl's parents and stepmother have been cooperative throughout the process. Akin said that she did not remember any previous calls to the house.
Athena's mother, Maitlyn Gandy, lives in southern Oklahoma. She told FOX 4 that she has sole custody of her daughter, but allowed her to spend the fall semester in Texas with her father and her stepmother.
"We talked to both parties: the mother, the father and the stepmother. They have been very cooperative," Akin said.
Athena's mother drove from Oklahoma and was seen talking to investigators at the search site.
The sheriff is making an appeal to people who live in the area.
"Please go outside and look at the outbuildings in your barns. Look through the undergrowth and just look on the surface you have so we can have peace of mind that she's not somewhere else we haven't looked," Akin said.
The sheriff asks that anyone living within a 20-mile radius check their security cameras or Ring for any signs of Athena. They are also asking that volunteers continue to withdraw for now.
The Wise County Sheriff's Office says they have contacted every sex offender in the area, but they don't believe it is a direct lead at this time.
Anyone who sees the missing girl is asked to call the Wise County Sheriff's Office at 940-627-5971.
Mr Wale Fasanya, Acting Director-General (DG) of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), said the agency would continue to support agripreneurs in the country.
Fasanya stated this during the post Agri preneur training held in Katsina on Friday.
He explained that the programme would be focused on “One Local Government, One product (OLOP), Women in Self-employment (WISE-P), National Business Development Skills Initiative (NBSDI)”, among others.
According to him, the initiative is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to fighting unemployment through agriculture and its value chains.
He thanked Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, for his support for the growth of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the state.
Earlier, the Katsina State Manager of SMEDAN, Malam Abdullahi Yusuf, thanked the agency for stepping down the post national training of the Agri-Preneurship Scheme (NATS) to the states.
An NGO, Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) has distributed 750 dollars (about N300,000) of food items to the poor and vulnerable households in Kaduna State.
WISE’s Founder and Programme Director, Ms Olanike Olugboji, announced the distribution of the food items in Kaduna on Tuesday.
She added that her NGO also distributed 150 clean cook stoves worth N675,000 to women and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), saying the gesture was to increase households’ resilience to hunger.
Olugboji explained that WISE’s friends and partners from the United States in support of the NGO’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief programme, donated the 750 dollars.
According to her, beneficiaries of the food items are mostly the aged women, widows, children from indigent homes, security guards, IDPs and helpless housewives who beg from house to house.
She said that the food items were distributed in two phases and the 150 clean cook stoves were distributed along with the food items in the second phase.
She noted that the stoves were freely given out under the Sustainable Fuelwood Management project in Nigeria.
According to her, the project is being funded by Global Environment Facility and United Nations Development Programme and coordinated by the Energy Commission of Nigeria.
“The beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable people in communities and who should be given adequate attention to enable them survive the coronavirus pandemic.
“The aged women and the IDPs are particularly going through a lot, considering the hunger occasioned by the recent COVID-19 lockdown.
“They should not be allowed to suffer access to food for their daily sustenance in this trying time.
“Also, we decided to donate clean cook stoves because we realised that energy aid seems to be missing in the kind of support being rendered to women and IDPs,” Olugboji said.
She expressed the organisation’s appreciation to individuals and corporate bodies who believed in WISE and had continued to support the NGO to deliver impactful interventions.
Edited By: Kevin Okunzuwa/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)
COVID-19: NGO to establish food bank to support vulnerable households
An NGO, Women Initiate for Sustainable Environment (WISE) on Monday unveiled plans to establish a food bank to support vulnerable households in Kaduna State.
It’s Founder and Programme Director, Ms Olanike Olugboji made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Kaduna.
Olugboji said the move had become necessary following the challenge the outbreak of Coronavirus had brought against institutional response to hunger.
She said the effect of COVID-19 on the economy had brought untoward hardship on many poor households across the country.
According to her, government and community response to hunger among poor households has been affected by the pandemic.
She said the project would be implemented within the framework of the organisation’s food security intervention scheme.
The WISE proramme director said that community-based poor households would be profiled to determine their food needs to ensure effective delivery of the project.
Olugboji further said that the body would partner restaurants, donors and other stakeholders to provide items to equip the food bank.
“Our food relief shall only be channeled to those in need. the essence is to support what the government and other organisations are doing in this area.
“Gaps still exist in the food needs of people, especially with the outbreak of COVID-19, the poor and vulnerable households are going through a lot of pains,” she said.
NAN reports that WISE is involved in mobilising women to address harmful cultural and environmentally destructive practices.
The NGO also promotes gender equality, women empowerment and sustainable community development in Kaduna State.
Edited By: Azubuike Okeh/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)
An NGO, Women Initiate for Sustainable Environment (WISE), has donated N270,000 worth of clean cook stoves to aged women and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kaduna.
The Founder and Programme Director, WISE, Ms Olanike Olugboji, while handing over the items to the beneficiaries on Saturday, said the gesture was to improve their well-being and livelihood.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the NGO also donated food items to the women and the displaced persons to increase access to daily meal, critical to their survival.
The foodstuffs being distributed are worth N230,000
“The aged and IDPs are among the most vulnerable people in communities and should be given adequate attention to enable them survive the coronavirus pandemic.
“The aged women and the IDPs are going through a lot, considering the hunger occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown.
“They should not be allowed to suffer in accessing food for their daily sustenance in this trying time.
“We decided to donate clean cook stoves because, we realised that energy aid seems to be missing in the kind of support being rendered to women and IDPs,” she said.
Olugboji said that additional N337,500 worth of clean cook stoves would be distributed to indigent households, while gatemen and youths begging in the street, as well as scavengers, would also be supported with food items.
She called on relevant authorities and stakeholders to come to the aid of the IDPs by resettling them and make their communities safe, so they could return home.
One of the aged women, Mrs Salama James, commended the WISE for the life-uplifting gesture, saying that the support would significantly improve their livelihood.
Also, Rev. Fr. Bulus Karis of the Holy Family Catholic Church, Barnawa, where the aged women received the items, also lauded the NGO for coming to the aid of the aged women.
Some of the IDPs from the recent attacks of communities in Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA) by gunmen, who were taking shelter at Unguwan Maigero, Kaduna, equally commended WISE for the support.
Rev. Musa Gefe, a displaced person, who spoke on behalf of the IDPs, explained that the displaced persons were made up of 10 families living in three rooms with no basic facilities.
Gefe said that they needed all the support they could get from people to enable them recover from the loss of love ones, means of livelihood as well as shocks and trauma.
Ms Alheri Magaji, Co-Founder, Rasiliant Aid and Dialogue Initiative, said that the clean cook stoves would help the IDPs immeasurably.
Magaji said that the attacks had rendered over 50,000 persons homeless in Kajuru LGA alone, while thousands of others were equally displaced in Chikun and Birnin Gwari LGAs.
Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)
While handing over the items to the beneficiaries, the Founder and Programme Director, WISE, Ms Olanike Olugboji, said that the gesture was to enable them survive the coronavirus lockdown in the state.
Olugboji noted that a lot of people were hungry and needed support from their neighbours to live through the day and survive the hardship being experienced, particularly among low income households.
According to her, no one will die of starvation if people learn to extend a helping hand to their neighbours.
She said that the food items, which include rice, beans, indomie and spaghetti, were to support families to live through the day with something in their stomach.
“We wish we could do more but we are calling on people to help people around them no matter how little, particularly the widows and people in dire need of support.
“Let us learn to hold each other’s hands as we struggle together to survive the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
Olugboji encouraged the people to look at the bright side of life amidst the hardship occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown and think of ways to get better after the emergency is over.
She said that the environment was healing up and breathing well following the lockdown, saying that every difficult time came with opportunities for others.
She urged the people to take all necessary precautionary measures to remain safe, noting that the current preventive measured could be harsh but necessary to keep everyone safe and alive.
More than 50 beneficiaries comprising men and women, widows and the aged, thanked WISE for the support, describing it as “life-saving”.
A beneficiary, Mrs Hasiya Aminu, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the gesture would feed her household for the next few days.
Another beneficiary, Mr Columbus Kevin, a commercial tricyclist said that he struggled to feed his family since the lockdown and thanked WISE for coming to his aid.
A pregnant mother, Mrs Amaka Johnson, also described the gesture as “life-saving”.
She said: “My unborn child can be born malnourished if I don’t eat well.’’
Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)
The Clean Cook Stove entrepreneurs, trained and equipped by an NGO, Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in Kaduna, are smiling to banks following the profitability of the business.
Some of the entrepreneurs called `clean cook stove financial women’, told the Nigeria News Agency on Tuesday, that the business had changed their financial status and improved their living standard.
One of them, Mrs Rifkatu Yakubu, who joined the clean cook stove entrepreneurs’ movement in 2017, said that she had sold close to 300 stoves from 2017 to date and still counting.
Yakubu explained that the stoves sell for between N3,500 and N20,000 depending on the brand and quality, describing it as a “profitable business” with high returns on investment.
“The business has not only boosted my existing food items business but improved the income of my family and gave me some level of prominence in my community,” she said.
Another Entrepreneur, Mrs Anna Avong, who equally joined the business in 2017, said that she had sold more than 200 stoves so far.
She told NAN that the business had linked her up with so many people within and outside her community.
“I was not good at business until I was trained by WISE to become a clean cook stove entrepreneur, which had significantly improved my business skills and exposed me to the business community.
“People are now tracking me from far and wide to purchase the clean cook stove,” Avong said.
On her part, Mrs Nwabuoku Ken-Dikens, a Civil Servant, said she tried so many businesses without success until she was introduced to clean cook stove entrepreneurship movement in 2019.
“I collected a N400,000 loan from a cooperative and invested it in ginger business in a bid to create other sources of income to augment my meagre salary.
“Unfortunately, the ginger I bought for N26,000 per 100 kg crashed to N6,000. It was a huge loss and terrible experience for me.
“I tried other businesses but all failed, so I gave up.
“I was introduced to clean cook stove entrepreneurship movement in 2019. I was reluctant at first but decided to give it a try and surprisingly, it was a huge success.
“The product does not expire and the demand for it kept growing. I have sold over 90 clean cook stoves so far,” she said.
Another beneficiary, Mrs Binta Yahaya, said she had become a producer of the stoves to meet up with the demand in Saminaka, Lere Local Government area of the state.
She said that her production line, Binta Stove, had become a household name in Saminaka and beyond, saying that the business had changed the lives of her household for good.
WISE Founder and Programme Director, Ms Olanike Olugboji, described the business as “a social enterprise”, not only for its financial gains but also for its social and environmental impact.
Olugboji explained that WISE, in partnership with Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) in the United States of America, began building a movement of clean cook stove entrepreneurs since 2015.
She told NAN that the project leveraged on WISE market-driven approach to increase households’ access to clean cook stove, which would soon replace the traditional three-stone cook stove in many homes.
Olugboji said that the NGO, in collaboration with WEA and UNDP had so far trained 306 entrepreneurs in Cross River, Delta, Gombe and Kaduna States, out of whom 120 hailed from Kaduna State.
She said that the women were trained to become entrepreneurs and advocates of clean cook stoves in their communities.
The programme director added that they were equally trained on marketing strategies, including the use of digital platforms, particularly social media in promoting the use of clean cook stove.
She said that 120 entrepreneurs in Kaduna State, including people living with disabilities had so far sold over 7,000 clean cook stoves, out of the 10,000 stoves distributed to them.
According to her, the efforts is helping to eliminate the use of firewood and its health hazards, apart from reducing deforestation.
“The business is particularly helping to curb deaths resulting from inhalation of smoke from firewood put at more than 93,000 deaths annually in the country.
“We are also using the intervention to create the needed awareness on global warming and its attendant effects,” Olugboji said.
Edited By: Shittu Obassa/Adeleye Ajayi
The Women Initiative for Sustainable Development (WISE), an NGO, on Monday, organised a funfair for more than 230 women in Kaduna, as part of activities to celebrate the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD).
Nigeria News Agency reports that some of the activities included dancing and singing competition, feasting, cutting of cake, cooking demonstration and distribution of several gifts to the women.
Some of the gift items included clean cook stove, cooking oil, key holders and flash drives to promote digital inclusion among women.
The Founder and Programme Director of the NGO, Ms Olanike Olugboji, said at the event was to celebrate women and their contributions to the society.
Olugboji added that the forum was an avenue for women to reflect on progress and challenges in accelerating gender equality and women and girl’s empowerment.
She said that the theme of the 2020 IWD, “I am a Generation Equality” demands equity for women, gender inclusion, end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls.
She stressed the need for provision of healthcare services that respond to the needs of women, equal participation in party politics and decision making in all areas of life.
According to her, the Day is marked to raise women consciousness of the opportunities around them and how to tap them for better living.
“It is about women supporting their fellow women to succeed in life and protecting the rights of women and girls when abused.
“We want to see more women utilising opportunities around them, particularly digital platforms to promote their businesses,” she said.
Also speaking, Mrs Ruth Olajide, a legal practitioner, who spoke on the topic, “Women’s Rights as a Means to Achieving Gender Equality”, noted that women rights were simply human rights.
Olajide, however, noted that women and girls were being abused by people that should be protecting them, stressing that women needed to speak out in defense of their fellow women.
On her part, the Vice President of MicroManna, Kaduna, Mrs Precious Nnaedozie, urged women to key into the digital world and tap from its numerous benefits.
Nnaedozie advised women and girls to use available digital platforms to promote their businesses and use it to fight all forms of gender-based violence.
She said that MicroManna in partnership with WISE, would provide free training to 50 women, on how to make the best use of digital platforms, particularly social media to promote their businesses online.
NAN reports that some gift items were distributed with support from MicroManna, Gleaming Start Enterprises, Fati Stove, and Envirofit among others.
Edited By: Shuaib Sadiq Adamu/Maharazu Ahmed
The Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE), a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), has distributed a total of 1,828 clean cook stoves, to 27 trained clean cook stove entrepreneurs and advocates in Kaduna.
The Founder and Programme Director of the NGO, Ms Olanike Olubgoji, disclosed this in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency on Saturday in Kaduna.
Olubgoji explained that the distribution was under the UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) Sustainable Fuel Wood Management (SFM) in Nigeria project, being driven by Energy Commission of Nigeria.
She said that under the project, WISE have developed the capacity of women, men, including people living with disability across communities of Cross River, Delta and Kaduna states to become clean cook stove entrepreneurs.
Accirding to her, the 27 beneficiaries are selected from the 70 clean cook stove entrepreneurs trained in Kaduna state, under the UNDP-GEF SFM project.
“The project leverage on the market-driven approach model developed by WISE, to increase households’ access to clean cook stove, which we hope would soon replace the traditional three-stone cook stove in Nigerian homes.
“This is the second phase of the distribution. In the first phase, the entrepreneurs were given about 40 stoves each at no cost, to enable them to raise the needed capital to sustain the business.
“In the second phase, the stoves were given at subsidised rate, to those who sold the highest number of stoves and are doing very well in terms of advocacy, educating people and creating awareness.
“In fact, some of the entrepreneurs have been invited to participate in the 3-day multi-stakeholders’ consultative and planning forum on the implementation of SFM project, scheduled for March,” she added.
Olugboji noted that about 70 per cent of Nigerian households still relied on traditional three-stone cooking method that consumed huge quantity of fuelwood which encourage deforestation.
She pointed out that deforestation was a major contributor to global warming and its attendant effects.
According to her, the promotion of clean cook stove uptake was part of efforts to deepen households’ access to energy efficient cook stove to discourage overdependence on traditional cooking method.
The programme director said that WISE, in partnership with Women Alliance in the United States of America, began building a movement of clean cook stove entrepreneurs since 2015.
She said that the NGO had so far trained 306 entrepreneurs in Cross River, Delta, Gombe and Kaduna, out of which 120 were from Kaduna State.
“The effort is to ensure that the rate of deforestation is drastically stemmed down, when we have people adopting this energy efficient means of cooking.
“We are also using the intervention to create the needed awareness on global warming and its attendant effects,” she said.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs Nwabuoku Ken-Dikens, the highest seller of the product, told NAN that she joined the clean cook stove business in 2019 and was skeptical at first.
She said that after the training, she was given 36 clean cook stove, which she sold within a short time, adding that she has sold more than 80 stoves so far.
According to her, the business has empowered her immensely and created financial stability for her household.
Another beneficiary, Mr Emmanuel Musa, said that he has sold 38 stoves out of the 40 given to him in 2019, describing the clean cook stove enterprise as a “profitable” business.
Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu and Isaac Ukpoju