A Monticello man who recently moved to Coon Rapids is facing multiple felony charges, including second degree murder, after he made his first court appearance in Crow Wing County Tuesday, Aug. 23 in connection to the kidnapping and homicide of Alayna Ertl, 5, on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Zachary T. Anderson was charged in court Tuesday morning in the high-profile case. Anderson is accused of taking Ertl from the family’s home early Saturday morning after playing softball with her father – one of Anderson’s co-workers – and spending the night there.
The Crow Wing County Attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint that listed charges of theft, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct, pointing to evidence that Alayna was taken from the Ertl home in Watkins in a stolen vehicle and, sadly, allegedly raped by Anderson before she was killed. A medical examiner’s report ruled her death a homicide.
The complaint added some crude details to an already heart-wrenching day for the Watkins community. New information included, according to the complaint:
- Anderson left the home before daybreak with Alayna, who brought only her blanket.
- 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. He had, apparently, slit his wrists.
- After brief questioning, Anderson showed the officers where he had left Alayna, deceased.
Anderson, 25, remains in the Crow Wing County Jail held on $1 million bail. Anderson is scheduled to appear in court again on Oct. 10.
Police say they still have no motive in the alleged murder, and are still investigating.