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Family friend gets life without parole for killing of 5-year-old Alayna Ertl

Zachary Anderson was a friend of the 5 year old's father.
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The Essentials

1. Zachary Todd Anderson, of Coon Rapids, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his sexual assault and murder of 5-year-old Alayna Ertl, of Watkins, Minnesota.

2. Ertl's overnight disappearance from her family home sparked an Amber Alert in August 2016. Anderson, a friend of Ertl's father, had been staying the night in the house.

3. Police were directed to Anderson's family cabin north of Motley after a tip-off from the 27 year old's father. There they found Ertl's body nearby.

What Else You Should Know

Anderson had pleaded not guilty last October to 19 charges including kidnapping, first-degree murder and criminal sexual conduct.

But the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension notes he agreed a plea deal on Friday that saw him sentenced immediately.

A medical examiner ruled Alayna died from strangulation, and there was evidence of blunt force trauma to her head, as well as evidence of sexual assault.

Related:

– Amber alert sparks frantic search for missing girl

KSTP reports that when police found Anderson, he was knee deep in a swampy area and had cuts on his wrists. He'd left a suicide note inside the property along with a shotgun.

Alayna is being remembered as "always having a smile and kind words to say," according to her obituary on a funeral home's website.

She was an animal lover, princess, singer, great friend and "our peanut," the obituary continued. She enjoyed learning from her brother and "always gave the best hugs."

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