Community Rattled after Body of 5-Year-Old Girl Abducted from Meeker County Recovered

October 25, 2017 05:39 PM

The body of a 5-year-old girl abducted from Meeker County was located in Cass County.

Alayna Jeanne Ertl is believed to have been abducted by family friend 26-year-old Zachary Todd Anderson Saturday morning.


"The body of Alayna Ertl has been recovered," said Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze. "This now has moved into a homicide investigation. Our suspect is in custody and the vehicle has been located."

According to the medical examiner, Alayna Ertl died of homicidal violence.

News traveled quickly through the small town of less than a thousand people."

"When I heard about finding her body, it just brought tears to my eyes and I still want to cry because I can feel the pain of the family," said April Saari, who moved to Watkins six months ago.

Anderson was arrested in Cass County. He is expected to make his first court appearance on Monday or Tuesday.

Chopper 5 flew over the area where the stolen pick up was found and Anderson was arrested.

Cruze was asked about the events leading up to the discovery of the girl's body.

"Obviously, this is not the outcome that we wanted," said Cruze.

We spoke with a board member at Wilderness Park Estates, a residential community located in Meadow Brook Township in Cass County, who says she heard helicopters overhead.

"The crime scene unit is on the way up there and they will process the scene," said Cruze.

According to investigators, Anderson, who is Alayna Ertl's father's co-worker, was staying overnight at Ertl's mother's home in Watkins.

"It sounds like he stayed there on a regular basis," said Cruze. "This is not the first time."

Alayna Ertl was put to bed at 2 a.m. Saturday, according to authorities. The mother said her daughter and Anderson were gone at 8 a.m. 

A phone in the stolen truck was pinged at 9 a.m. in Todd County.

Anyone with information should still call the Meeker County Sheriff's Office at 320-693-5400 or call 911.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Alayna Ertl's family.


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