More Details Emerge on Kidnapping and Murder of 5-Year-Old Girl
ST. PAUL - More details have emerged on the kidnapping and murder of five-year-old Alayna Ertl of Watkins.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office released primary autopsy results on Monday and says Ertl died of homicidal violence. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says 25-year-old Zachary Anderson is in custody in Crow Wing County Jail on probable cause for the murder and kidnapping. He's expected to make his first court appearance in Cass County District Court on Tuesday.
On Saturday at 10:00 a.m. the Meeker County Sheriff's Office received the report of a missing child. Ertl's parents told authorities that she was put to bed at 2:00 a.m. and that at 8:00 a.m. both she and Anderson (who was a guest who spent the night), were gone. The white GMC Sierra truck belonging to the girls father was also missing with his cell phone inside.
Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze says Anderson was a family friend and co-worker of Alayna’s father
Deputies searched the neighborhood for Ertl. The also contacted the family cell phone provider to try and find Anderson. When he wasn't found, the Sheriff's Office asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for help.
BCA agents helped to search area businesses and the neighborhood. They also looked for video surveillance images. When video and leads didn't provide much information, an Amber Alert was pushed through at 1:12 p.m.
Cass County Sheriff's Deputies later found the stolen vehicle on property owned by the Anderson family in rural Cass County. Nobody was inside the vehicle or a cabin on the property. Anderson was eventually found at 4:24 p.m. by K-9 officers in a wooded area about a quarter mile from the cabin at 4926 Iroquois Trail Loop SW. He didn't attempt to flee, had no weapon and didn't resist arrest.
Anderson provided information that led authorities to find Ertl's body in a swampy wooded area a few hundred yards from the cabin. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
This is still an active investigation. Law enforcement is still looking for information from anyone who saw Anderson or the stolen vehicle on Saturday. Anyone with information should call 320-693-5400.
The Todd County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota State Patrol, Baxter and Coon Rapids Police, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the FBI, the Cass and Meeker County Sheriff/Attorney Offices, North Memorial Ambulance and Minnesota Canine Search and Rescue are all helping in the investigation.