The abduction and murder of 5-year-old Alayna Eryl have left a family, community and nation heartbroken. The news of the little girl’s disappearance first broke on Saturday, August 20. That’s when Watkins, Minnesota police issued an Amber Alert for 5-year-old Alayna Ertl after her mother discovered her missing from her bed along with the family pickup and a family friend who had been spending the night at the Ertl home.
That family friend, 25-year-old Zachary Anderson, was soon considered the sole suspect in the disappearance of Alayna Ertl. Family, friends, the public, and law enforcement worked diligently to bring Alayna home safe and sound following her abduction. Unfortunately, her story would have a tragic end. Her battered, nude body was found in a swampy area only 80 miles from her home just hours after her abduction, and Anderson is currently incarcerated, having been charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering 5-year-old Alayna Ertl.
Here is everything you need to know about the heartbreaking murder and abduction of the preschooler.
Her Alleged Killer Had No Known Criminal History
As People Magazine reports, the suspect in the abduction and murder of Alayna Ertl has no known history of violence or sex crimes against children. His criminal record is mainly limited to traffic citations, and he was a fairly close friend of the Ertl family, particularly Alayna Ertl’s father, who worked with Zachary Anderson.
The night that Anderson allegedly abducted Alayna Ertl wasn’t the first time he had stayed overnight at the family’s home, and according to investigators, the family had no reason to mistrust Anderson or to believe that he posed a threat to 5-year-old Alayna. At this point, law enforcement is still looking for a motive for his alleged unthinkable crimes.
“We have no known motive. We are at a loss as to why this happened.”
Zachary Anderson Was Turned In By His Own Father
Apparently, the suspect in the abduction and murder of Alayna Ertl was turned in by his own father, who reportedly called in a tip to police looking for the missing 5-year-old and her abductor. When police tracked Zachary Anderson down, it was at a remote cabin in Cass County, Minnesota owned by his family.
Reportedly, when police arrived at the scene, the suspect in the abduction and murder of Alayna Ertl was found bleeding from a self-inflicted wound and wading in a nearby swamp. He reportedly directed law enforcement to the location of Alayna’s body.
Alayna Ertl’s Alleged Killer Allegedly Tried To Kill Himself
When police located Zachary Anderson, he had reportedly tried to slit his wrists. Prior to finding the man who allegedly abducted and murdered Alayna Ertly bleeding from his wrist in a rural swamp, authorities also reportedly found a shotgun, shells, and a suicide note written by Anderson inside his family’s nearby cabin.
When Anderson was initially discovered by police, he reportedly initially tried to pretend that he didn’t know anything about Alayna Ertl, but he quickly changed his story and led officers to the missing child.
“The girl? What girl?”
Unfortunately, when police discovered Alayna Ertl’s body, she had already passed away and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Anderson Is Currently Incarcerated And Has Been Formally Charged
The man who is allegedly responsible for the abduction and murder of Alayna Ertl is currently being held at the Crow Wing County Jail, and his bail has been set at $2 million, reports The Star Tribune. He has been charged with charged with one count of murder in the second degree, one count of criminal sexual conduct with a person under the age of 13, one count of kidnapping to facilitate a felony, one count of kidnapping to commit great bodily harm, and one count of theft in connection with the death of Alayna Ertl.
Zachary Anderson was officially charged on Tuesday, August 23 and is expected back in court in October.
The Community And Nation Have Rallied Around Alayna’s Family
Alayna Ertl was last seen alive by her mother at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. That’s when the preschooler’s mom carried her daughter to her bedroom after she’d fallen asleep on the couch.
Following her abduction and murder, her heartbroken family has remained private, and the media, friends, and neighbors have respected their need for solitude. Their local community has also respected the need to memorialize Alayna Ertl and recognize the family’s unthinkable loss.
The local community held a candlelight vigil and balloon release in honor of Alayna Ertl’s life on Tuesday, August 24. Hundreds of people showed up to share their condolences and show the Ertl family their support. Alayna Ertl’s funeral is scheduled for Friday morning.
In addition to the candlelight vigil, a GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Ertl family with funeral and other expenses. As of Wednesday, over $55,000 had been raised to support the family of Alayna Ertl in the wake of her tragic abduction and murder.
[Image via Meeker County Sheriff’s Office]