PARADISE, Texas – Police are searching for a missing 7-year-old girl in Texas, and an AMBER alert has been issued as police comb through the rural property where Athena lives with her father and stepmother.
Strand has been missing since about 6 p.m. Wednesday evening.
She was last seen at her father’s home on County Road 3573 in Paradise, Texas, wearing a gray long-sleeve shirt with white flowers, blue jeans with white flowers on the pockets, and brown boots.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office said they received a call from her stepmother reporting her missing after the two had an argument while her father was not home. Police said she spent “about an hour” looking for her before contacting the sheriff’s office.
Athena’s stepmother told the sheriff’s office that she went to her daughter’s room about 5:30 p.m. and she wasn’t there, the Messenger reported.
Police say that the father left to go on a hunting trip prior to her disappearance.
Officials believe she walked out on her own, but neighbors say that doesn’t seem right.
“The only time she left was to go to her grandmother’s house next door—and that’s family,” neighbor Melina Owens said. “She’s not OK with being in the dark. She doesn’t like the cold.”
Neighbors were also doing as much as they could while there was still daylight Thursday.
“There’s some abandoned barns and sheds…we went through there,” said Chasity Allerkamp, who volunteered to help search. “We searched the woods behind the dad’s property…we couldn’t find anything out there.”
During their search Thursday, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said law enforcement is looking at everything from a criminal or “just a missing child” standpoint. They have used resources like search dogs, choppers, and other technology to find Strand.
Additionally, an Amber Alert for the 7-year-old was issued Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday night, Strand’s mom Maitlyn Gandy took to social media to thank those who’ve helped try to find her daughter.
She wrote in part:
“Athena is still missing and we are now over the 24 hour point. Thank you to my wonderful family and the large support from the Wise County community. We are continuing our search. I ask that everyone pray.. pray some more, continue to pray, and never stop praying. I cannot live without my baby and I need her brought home safely to me. Athena didn’t walk away or disappear on her own. I will not give up or stop until I have Athena back. I feel like there is a hole in my heart and half of my soul is missing. An amber alert was issued earlier today. Please do not give up on my baby.”
However, the Wise County Office of Emergency Management has since stated that they “will not be utilizing volunteers to assist with the search,” for Strand.
Multiple agencies, including the Texas Rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Texas Department of Public Safety, are assisting local agencies in the search. Wise County asks that anyone with information on Strand’s whereabouts to call the sheriff’s office at 940-627-5971.