New bill influenced by murder of Athena Strand passes Texas House

The bill would allow law enforcement agencies to quickly issue a regional alert when a child goes missing without meeting AMBER alert criteria.

AUSTIN, Texas – A bill influenced by the murder of 7-year-old Athena Strand last November passed overwhelmingly in the Texas House, moving one step closer to codifying “Athena Alerts” into law.

The bill, HB 3556, would allow law enforcement agencies to circumvent the requirements for a statewide AMBER alert and instead allow them to issue a regional alert to individuals within a 100-mile radius of where they are believed to be that the child has disappeared or was last seen.

In this way, via an “Athena Alert”, information about a missing child can be delivered to the public much faster if the case does not fully meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert.

“I would like to thank Rep. Stucky and other lawmakers for their support for an Athena notice in honor of my daughter,” Maitlyn Gandy, Athena’s mother, said in a statement. missing, she could have made a difference. We’ll never know, but I know I don’t want another parent to feel the helplessness I did. Law enforcement wanted to raise the alarm, but by the criteria of current law, they simply couldn’t.”

Gandy’s attorney, Benson Varghese, called the bill “common sense legislation” that will not drive additional taxes for the public.

“This bill is not intended to replace the AMBER Alert, an incredible law that has saved the lives of hundreds of children,” Varghese said in a statement. “It extends an alert system already in place, allowing it to be used locally during the early stages of a missing child investigation.”

Varghese said that because it’s local, they believe more people will pay more attention to the message.

“The sooner we can get the word out, the more likely we are to find a child,” she said.

The bill will now go to the Texas Senate. If approved there, it will go to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk to be signed into law.

Strand was abducted from her home Nov. 30 in rural Wise County and killed by a contracted driver for FedEx.

The driver confessed to police that he was delivering a package to Strand’s home and accidentally hit her with his vehicle, panicked, then strangled her to death in his delivery vehicle out of fear of the consequences. follow.

The driver, Tanner Horner, then dumped Athena’s body in a rural area and led investigators to the scene following her capture and confession, according to investigators. He has since been indicted on capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges.

Prosecutors are calling for the death penalty.

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