Athena Beach the other day: Large police presence gathered along CR4599

Police have been searching for the missing Wise County girl for nearly two days and have issued an AMBER Alert but have not yet announced they will find evidence.

PARADISE, Texas — Updated at 6:21 p.m.: As the second day of the search for missing 7-year-old Wise County Athena Strand continues, a massive police presence has arrived along a section of County Road 4599, less than 10 miles from her family’s home.

It is not yet clear why the police were gathered at this location, but at the scene it appeared that law enforcement officers were investigating a roadside ditch that they had taped off to through traffic.

It’s been two days since 7-year-old Athena Strand was last seen, and Wise County lawmakers are still searching for the missing girl.

An AMBER alert was issued on Thursday afternoon, describing Strand as “vulnerable” and saying she was last seen wearing a gray and black long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans with flowers on the front pockets and brown boots.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said Athena’s stepmother first called police around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday after realizing she was not in her room at her father’s home.

According to the police, no third-party fault is currently suspected. But they also add that it hasn’t been ruled out.

Child Protection Services confirmed to WFAA that they have never had cases of Athena. However, sources told the WFAA that CPS previously visited the home to examine the stepmother and another child.

Police said Athena first got off her school bus at her father’s house around 4:15 pm on Wednesday. Her father wasn’t home when Athena disappeared; He was on his way to a deer hunt.

Athena’s stepmother told police that at one point she and Strand got into an argument, which Akin said the stepmother told police was not unusual for their relationship.

When the stepmother went to dinner, police said, she went to Athena’s room and found that she was not in the house.

After searching for Athena for an hour, the stepmother called 911 and initiated a police search, which began along with emergency responders and volunteer firefighters. Search dogs were also deployed along with airborne thermal imaging cameras on Wednesday night, but only wildlife was seen.

The search was called off around 4:30 a.m. Thursday and resumed a few hours later with about 200 citizens banding together to comb the area. Still, nothing was found – neither Athena nor any evidence. A total of about 50 acres have been searched since the search began.

Akin said registered sex offenders in the area were also interviewed as part of the investigation.

At one point, search dogs found an odor around the house but nothing outside the perimeter.

The FBI, Texas DPS, US Marshals and Texas Rangers are also helping in the search and investigation, with the FBI using digital resources to examine things like cellphone data and social media posts.

Police said the father and stepmother were cooperating in their investigation. Akin said they are acting “appropriately” to the situation.

But Athena’s mother Maitlyn Gandy and her sister (and Athena’s aunt) Keeland Kulbeth said things didn’t add up at the moment and that Athena wasn’t just going to walk away.

Athena had run away before, they said, but it had never been serious; She was always found quickly after it happened. They said she also went to the houses of neighbors in the country to visit them.

Kulbeth said that from what she had been told, Athena may have been upset with her father for leaving to go hunting.

“We definitely don’t think Athena ran away,” Kulbeth said. “We’re not sure if she was kidnapped. We just want everyone to keep an eye on them and bring them home to us.”

Kulbeth described Athena as a very loving and kind child who loves people and flowers.

“She’s a girly girl,” said Kulbeth. “I just can’t see her running away.”

Kulbeth said she and Athena often ride together, which they were planning to do along with a Christmas parade this weekend in Comanche, Oklahoma.

“We take her to watch movies and we’re ready for her to come home,” Kulbeth said. “I just want her to be home and safe where I can physically see her … I’m scared and hoping we find her because I don’t want anyone to be in that situation right now.” Athena Beach the other day: Large police presence gathered along CR4599

Laura Coffey

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