The Minnesota Amber Alert issued for Alayna Ertl on Saturday ended in tragedy after only a few short hours of searching for the missing 5-year-old. At the time of the Amber Alert, authorities let the public know that the missing and endangered little girl was believed to have been abducted by a close family friend. That family friend, Zachary Anderson, 26, had been staying the night at the little girl’s home when she disappeared.
— BringMeTheNews (@BringMN) August 21, 2016
Just a few hours after the broadcast of the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert, tragedy was discovered. The body of the abducted 5-year-old was found in Motley, a small rural town, reports Yahoo! News. According to local law enforcement, Alayna Ertl was already deceased when she was discovered.
The discovery that the Amber Alert had ended in tragedy was made at about 4 p.m. local time; according to Alayna Ertl’s mother, the little girl and her abductor had disappeared sometime before 8 a.m. that morning. That was when Anderson and Alayna were found to be missing from the Ertl family home in Watkins, Minnesota.
There is quite a bit of distance between the home of Alayna Ertl in Watkins, which is roughly 75 miles west of Minneapolis, and Motley, 200 miles north of Minneapolis, where her body was found. Determining why her alleged killer transported his 5-year-old victim to the rural Motley area is part of the ongoing investigation into the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert tragedy.
“That’s part of our follow up right now, to figure out — why there?”
As New York Daily News reports, Zachary Anderson was arrested in connection with the little girl’s death; a stolen vehicle was also recovered from the scene of the tragedy.
My heart aches for the family of the Alayna Ertl. Fly high sweet baby girll???? pic.twitter.com/vcU2IeJpvE
— Brittany Denn (@BrittanyDenn) August 21, 2016
According to reports, police seem to think that Alayna Ertl was abducted sometime after 2 a.m. Saturday, which is when Alayna’s mother reportedly put the girl to bed. In addition to allegedly kidnapping Alayna Ertl, the suspect is also believed to have stolen her father’s truck.
The area where the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert ended in so much tragedy is a heavily forested area known as Wilderness Park. It has been reported that Alayna Ertl’s father’s cell phone was in the stolen vehicle. According to reports, law enforcement were able to get a ping from the phone prior to it being turned off. Authorities then reportedly got a tip related to the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert that led them to the missing girl’s body and the arrest of her alleged abductor and killer.
— Melanie Pauls (@musicalmel72) August 21, 2016
rest peacefully, Alayna Ertl. this shouldn't have happened and I hope the scum who did this is brought to justice.
— AUS IS BOSS (@actuallyakat) August 21, 2016
— Dallas Dietzenbach (@DallasDietzenba) August 20, 2016
@TDurianKSTP poor baby????????????
— Diane Hutcherson (@zetahutch) August 21, 2016
Law enforcement reportedly used an array of search vehicles, including helicopters, to scour the wooded area for the missing Alayna Ertl as they desperately tried to bring about a positive outcome in the ongoing Amber Alert.
Unfortunately, there was nothing positive about the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert tragedy, and it didn’t take searchers long to discover the body of a small female, later identified as Alayna. Her alleged abductor and killer was arrested shortly thereafter, at around 4:30 p.m.
It has also been reported that a local news helicopter, Chopper 5, helped to find the stolen truck in the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert.
Alayna Ertl (5) from Watkins, MN may have been taken by Zachary Anderson, MN residents keep an eye out please pic.twitter.com/Q7Nox5QsKk
— jacee (@hearteyeshowell) August 20, 2016
Zachary Anderson was reportedly a good friend of Alayna Ertl’s father, and his overnight stay at the family home was one of a guest and known family friend, someone the child and her parents would have trusted. Additionally, prior to his involvement in the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert tragedy, Anderson had no known history of being a child abuser or sex offender.
The night that Anderson allegedly abducted Alayna from her bed wasn’t the first time he’d stayed at the family home, and the little girl’s parents reportedly had no reason to suspect that his presence was putting their daughter in danger, reports KSTP News.
— Mark J. Westpfahl (@MarkJWestpfahl) August 20, 2016
At this point in the investigation, it is not clear how Alayna Ertl died, but investigators are looking into whether it may have been a case of child rape or molestation gone horribly wrong.
“We have no known motive. We are at a loss as to why this happened.”
Prior to being a suspect in the Alayna Ertl Amber Alert tragedy, Anderson had only had minor run-ins with law enforcement.
[Photo by Meeker County Sheriff’s Office]