Attorneys for the former Monticello man charged with killing a Watkins, Minnesota toddler last summer are asking a Cass County judge to either dismiss the charges against their client, strike testimony from evidence records and/or move the trial completely.
Zachary Todd Anderson is facing multiple charges, including murder and kidnapping, after he allegedly took his friend’s 5-year-old daughter from their Watkins home, raped her and killed her at the Anderson family cabin on Aug. 20, 2016.
Court filings show that attorneys for Anderson, 26, a longtime Monticello resident, will ask the court to dismiss charges based on the fact there was not enough probable cause to indict their client. Should that motion fail, they will also allege Anderson’s rights were violated during the investigation, and that he was pressed during the interrogation process. A motion also will be filed to move the trial out of Cass County due to media coverage.
Typically, judges will listen to the motions and take them under advisement and hand down a decision within three months.
The motion to dismiss is stacked up against a number of items the prosecution found during their investigation.
Last August, after an AMBER Alert was issued, authorities used tips – including a phone call from his own father – to track Anderson to a cabin near Motley, Minnesota. There, Anderson was discovered in a swampy area with his wrists cut. After receiving some treatment for his wounds, he led investigators to the body of Alyana Jane Ertl, 5.
The criminal complaint against Anderson also states:
- Anderson left the Ertl home before daybreak with Alayna, who brought only her blanket. Anderson had been drinking the night before with Ertl’s father.
- The truck Anderson stole from the Ertl’s driveway was seen along the route from Watkins to a rural home near Motley, but it was presumed Anderson was alone. A gas station attendant didn’t think he saw anyone with him.
- Anderson called his father before mid-day Saturday, asking for permission to use the family cabin in rural Crow Wing County.
- Anderson’s father called police after the AMBER Alter was issued shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, believing his son was a suspect in the girl’s disappearance. The father, presumably, knew of the relationship between Anderson and the girl’s father.
- Police came to the cabin in two pairs. One discovered a firearm and shells in the home, with what they believed might be a suicide note. The other pair, using K-9 officers, found Anderson, himself, in a swampy area on the land.
- Autopsy reports show Ertl was strangled, and there was evidence of blunt force trauma to her skull.
Anderson was indicted by a grand jury on first degree murder charges and counts of sexual assault, kidnapping and theft. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.