Amber Alert: 5-year-old girl found dead, decision on charges likely Monday

A decision on charges for the man suspected in the death of Alayna Ertl is expected soon.
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A decision on charges for the man suspected in the death of Alayna Ertl is likely to be made on Monday.

Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze told GoMN that the 5-year-old's body is being readied for autopsy on Sunday, after she was found dead in Cass County on Saturday hours after an Amber Alert was issued.

The suspect in her killing was arrested and is being questioned.

Once the autopsy has been completed and a decision on charges has been made, Cruze said more information will be made public.

He did reveal that Ertl's body was found on the grounds of a home in Cass County, and the suspect, Zachary Anderson, was arrested at that same property. They were both outside the house when they were found.

The Star Tribune reports the property is near Wilderness Park, outside Motley, about 90 minutes north of Ertl's home in Watkins, Minnesota.

Cruze told GoMN they were alerted to the location by an anonymous tip. It is not certain if the tip came as a result of the Amber Alert, but he did say the alert generated multiple credible tips that will warrant further follow-up.

"We did get a lot of tips did that I believe are credible, and we will will go back and follow-up on them. These were after the fact tips," he said.

"I believe the Amber Alert did what it was supposed to do at that point, as we had no idea where [the suspect] was at."

The suspect is being held in the Crow Wing County Jail in Brainerd. Jail logs show he is accused of first-degree murder and kidnapping.

Anyone with more information can call the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office at 320-693-5400.

Saturday 6:30 p.m.

The Amber Alert has been canceled for a 5-year-old girl declared missing.

Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze tells GoMN the body of Alayna Ertl has been found in Cass County.

The suspect, Zachary Anderson, has been arrested.

Cruze says a homicide investigation is underway.

The Meeker County Sheriff's Office said Ertl was last seen around 2 a.m. Saturday. KSTP adds that's when the girl's mother put her to sleep.

Anderson – a family friend – had been spending the night with the girl's family, the station reports.

And by 8 a.m., both Anderson and Ertl were gone.

GoMN will update this story as more details are released.

Meeker County officials ask anyone with information to call the Meeker County dispatch at 320-693-5400.

Original story

An Amber Alert has been issued for a 5-year-old girl who was also declared missing, the Meeker County Sheriff's Office said.

Alayna Ertl is described as a white girl, 45 pounds with shoulder length sandy blond hair and is approximately 3 feet tall. She was last seen in the city of Watkins this morning at 2 a.m. Her clothing is unknown.

Authorities have named Zachary Todd Anderson as a person of interest.

Anderson is a 26-year-old white male described as being 5 foot 11 inches tall, 190 pounds and with a short scruffy beard.

He may be possibly driving a 2002 GMC Sierra pickup bearing the license 107-KMT, which has been entered as stolen.

Information received that he may have been in Todd County at approximately 6:30 a.m.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Meeker County Sheriff's Office at 320-693-5400.

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