Autopsy Results And Details Released In Kidnapping And Homicide
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office has released preliminary autopsy results regarding a Watkins, Minn. girl who was kidnapped from her home sometime early Saturday morning.
The medical examiner said 5-year-old Alayna Jeanne Ertl, of Watkins, died of homicidal violence.
25- year- old Zachary Todd Anderson, of Coon Rapids, is in custody in the Crow Wing County Jail on probable cause murder and kidnapping. Anderson was taken to that jail due to space issues at the Cass County Jail. Anderson is expected to make his first court appearance in Cass County District Court on Monday or Tuesday.
The Meeker and Cass County sheriff’s offices and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) are investigating the crime jointly.
On Saturday, at 10 a.m. Meeker County Sheriff’s Office deputies received a report of a missing child. Ertl’s parents told deputies that she had been put to bed on Saturday at 2 a.m. and that at 8 a.m. both she and a guest who had spent the night, Zachary Anderson, were gone. Mr. Ertl’s white GMC Sierra truck was also missing with his cell phone inside.
Deputies conducted a neighborhood canvass for Ertl. They also contacted the family’s cell phone provider to try to locate the whereabouts of Mr. Anderson. When Ertl was not located during the canvass, the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office contacted the BCA to request assistance with the investigation.
BCA agents and sheriff’s deputies canvassed local businesses and the neighborhood for video surveillance images and worked to develop information on the whereabouts of Mr. Anderson. When the video and leads did not result in Ertl or Anderson being located, an AMBER Alert was issued at 1:12 p.m.
Cass County sheriff’s deputies located the stolen vehicle on property owned by Anderson’s family in rural Cass County. No one was inside the vehicle or a cabin on the property.
Additional law enforcement responded to the property and Anderson was located at approximately 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. Anderson did not attempt to flee, he did not have a weapon and did not resist arrest.
Information provided by the suspect as well as additional investigative efforts lead law enforcement to Ertl’s remains in a swampy wooded area a few hundred yards from the cabin. She was pronounced deceased at the scene.
This remains an active and ongoing investigation. Law enforcement continues to seek information from anyone who encountered Anderson or the stolen vehicle on Saturday at 320-693-5400.
Assistance in the investigation is being provided by the Todd County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota State Patrol, Baxter and Coon Rapids police departments, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the FBI, and the Cass and Meeker County attorneys offices, North Memorial Ambulance Services and Minnesota Canine Search, Rescue and Tracking.