The Texas Senate has passed the “Athens Alert” bill, which allows local police to quickly contact regional police when a missing child is missing to confirm an abduction. Gov. Greg Abbott is now expected to sign it into law on the day of September 1.
Bill 3556, authored by Rep. Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Sanger, proposed a bill that would allow local leaders to wake up when a child goes missing without a confirmation of abduction. This high-level demand is necessary to raise awareness, a measure that originated in Texas and has spread across the United States and other countries in honor of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped near her home in Arlington. Texas in January 1996 and later brutally murdered and the perpetrator was never found.
When Athens is alerted, law enforcement can use the existing AMBER alert system to quickly distribute local alerts to people within 100 miles of the reported disappearance and to adjacent counties, notifying them that the child is missing.
Law named Athena Strand, a 7-year-old North Texas girl who disappeared from her father’s home in Paradise in November 2022 and was found dead two days later. The package delivery driver confessed to hitting Athena with his vehicle and then strangling her when she said she was going to tell her father about the accident.
Strand’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy, testified before a Texas House committee, recalling that she asked for an emergency alert as soon as she learned her daughter was missing.
“Unfortunately, he always got the same answer: that, in his case, the criteria for electorate should be published,” said Gandy. “I don’t want anyone to feel what I feel. I don’t want my mother to have an urn at home with her children’s ashes. I don’t want to see another grandfather cry like my father.”
An Amber Alert was eventually issued in Athena’s case, but not until about 24 hours after she went missing, and not until after investigators said she had been killed. The next day her body was found about six miles from her home.
“If this had been an active search when my daughter went missing, there’s no doubt the Wise County Sheriff’s Office would have brought it back,” Gandy said. “Unfortunately, his hands were tied because my daughter’s abduction did not immediately meet the strict criteria for AMBER set up statewide,” said mother Athena.
Athena Strand’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit in March against Tanner Horner, the suspect in her daughter’s murder, her employer, and contract courier Big Topspin and FedEx, respectively.
If convicted, Strand, the accused murderer, faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty. The Wise County District Attorney said he plans to seek the death penalty in this case.
A minor, Amber Hagerman, was kidnapped in Arlington, whose body was found four days later near a creek in the same city. Today, Arlington police are releasing new details about the person in charge.