Zachary Anderson

Walker, MN (KROC AM News) - The charges brought against the Coon Rapids man accused of abducting and killing the young daughter of a friend and coworker indicates 5-year-old Alayna Ertl had been sexually assaulted and strangled before her body was left in a swampy area of Cass County last weekend.

26-year-old Zachary Anderson was formally arraigned in Cass County Court Tuesday morning on second-degree murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and vehicle theft charges. His conditional bail was set at $1 million.

The criminal complaint says Anderson and the little girl’s father were involved in a weekend softball event before the father returned to the family’s home in Watkins around 2:30 AM Saturday, which is when her parents moved a sleeping Alayna Ertl from a couch to her bed. Anderson arrived at the residence around an hour later and the two men stayed up until approximately 4 AM.

Alayna Ertl
photo supplied by BCA

Her parents discovered the child was missing around 8:30 that morning. They also noted Anderson was gone and the family’s pickup truck was missing, which eventually led authorities to issue a statewide Amber Alert.

The charges say Anderson’s father heard the alert and told investigators they might find his son at the family’s cabin in Cass County. When they arrived, they discovered the stolen pickup truck and found a suicide note inside the cabin. A search was launched, and Anderson was eventually located nearby and he eventually led authorities to the swampy area where the young victim’s body was found.

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