(USNewsMag.com) – 31-year-old FedEx Ground Driver Tanner Horner was accused this weekend of kidnapping and murdering 7-year-old Athena Strand while making a delivery to the little girl’s home in Paradise, Texas on Wednesday, November 30th. The little girl was reported missing that same day. Although the case is tragic and shocking in itself, it raises questions on two fronts: why does FedEx continue to employ individuals with criminal capabilities, and are child abductions on the rise?
While the case continues to develop, it appears that police received a tip early on Friday that would indicate Horner abducted the innocent child, which led to his immediate arrest. He is now being held in Wise County jail on capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges. Horner also admitted to committing the crimes and led authorities to find Athena’s body. His bond is set at $1.5 million, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.
FedEx contracts with independent businesses and has anyone contracted with FedEx Ground, FedEx Express, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Office subject to criminal history background checks, the company revealed on Saturday. However, it also appears that they do hire individuals with a criminal conviction on a case-by-case basis, according to Circuit Route Planner.
Even though no one can properly wrap their heads around a senseless act such as this, pressuring FedEx to reform its hiring practices may help decrease the number of questionable individuals that are being employed at this company. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time their delivery drivers are accused of committing crimes that often turn violent, as recently noted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Just last year alone, four different cases involved a FedEx driver committing criminal acts of sexual abuse and assault, murder, arson, break-ins, and theft. And that’s just what we know by scratching the surface.
On the other hand, Athena Strand’s case sheds light on child abduction rates, and whether they are worsening as of late. While it is common for missing or abducted children to be kidnapped by parents or relatives or to be considered “runaways,” less than 1% of cases are those committed by strangers. However, it is just as devastating to realize that 71% of abductions by non-family members happen in outside areas. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also reports that most child abductions occur while they are on their way to and from school.
Reports indicate that Athena Strand was reported missing on Wednesday around 5:45 pm, which may have been shortly after she had gotten home from school. Her parents were unaware of her whereabouts during this timeframe, which means the abductor may have taken advantage of the timing. The precise details of the crime remain unclear at this time.
While the FBI and related federal statistics show that fewer than 350 children are abducted annually by strangers, the media does have a tendency to provide increased high-profile coverage of cases like these. Increased coverage makes it seem that this is far more common than it really is, which may cause increased concern among the general public and parents as a whole.
Child abductions shouldn’t be blamed on anyone but the perpetrator. That said, parents can take a proactive approach to teach their children the fundamentals of staying safe. It may help to keep an eye on your child’s whereabouts as they are heading to/from school, making sure they are getting on the school bus, and that you or a legal guardian are meeting them as soon as they get home. Educating on the dangers of potential abductions, encouraging them to never go anywhere alone, increasing communication channels to ensure their whereabouts, and overall empowering children to do the best they can to either prevent or escape the situation are some of the tips offered by the Office of Justice Programs in partnership with the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children.
Vianca Rodriguez, Independent Political Analyst
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