News of the abduction of 7-year-old Athena Strand caused concern and heartache in North Texas and across the country earlier this week. Then on Friday, Athena's body was found in Wise County, and a FedEx contract driver was arrested and accused of kidnapping and killing her, authorities said.
"It hurts our hearts," Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said during a news conference on Friday evening. "This community does not like like losing our children."
The suspect, Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, is from Fort Worth, according to public records. He's in the Wise County Jail and faces charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. Authorities said he has confessed to the crime and told them where Athena's body was.
An outpouring of grief flooded a GoFundMe page created Friday by Athena's mother, Maitlyn Gandy. As of Saturday afternoon, the fundraiser had received more than $15,700 in donations.
Many of those who donated wrote messages on the GoFundMe page:
Catherine Schaade: "I'm from states away and was hoping so much that she was found … and I bawled when I saw the news … I'm sorry a monster took your baby girl from you. No mother or parent deserves that pain."
Shelly Wilson: "Prayers for the entire family. Our hearts break for you."
Justa Brand: "There are no words that could ever help ease the pain your going through right now, but you are in our prayers for the days months and years to come."
Eldon & Misty Marshall: "We r praying for Athena & Her Family through this difficult time! We r so sorry! I'm lost at words of what to write!"
Joseph and Rhonda Morton: "Our hearts hurt for what your family is going through and your precious little girl. We pray for you all as you navigate this difficult time! May Athena rest in peace."
Candlelight vigil at Paradise church
A candlelight memorial service will be held at the First Baptist Church Cottondale in Paradise Dec. 6, according to a church Facebook post. The service will allow the "community to come together to celebrate the life of Athena Strand."
The church is located on 145 CR 3355.
Residents were also encouraged by the church to send in messages that they would like to be read at the memorial service. Messages can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The church also noted three ways people can donate to a fund set up for the family:
At the church's website: fbccottondale.com, select "Give"
Text "Give" to 940-400-0114
In-person: There is an offering box in the church's foyer.
All donations collected will go to the family, according to the church post.
Read more about the Athena Strand case:
Athena Strand was 'my first true love,' mother writes in social media tribute
Exclusive: Sheriff says kidnapping, murder of Athena Strand was a 'crime of opportunity'