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Tri-County News
Kimball, Minnesota
August 25, 2016     Tri-County News
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August 25, 2016

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PAGE 10 Auoast 25, 2016 . By ]ean Doran Matua, Editor WARNING: This story includes graphic content and should not be read by children or the faint of heart. R includes details, although not all, from the criminal complaint against suspect Anderson filed Tuesday, Aug. 23. The parents of 5-year-old Alayna Ertl learned Monday what had happened to their daughter Saturday, Aug. 20, after she was taken from their home in the early morning hours. Formal charges were filed late morning Tuesday, Aug. 24, and the rest of the world learned the horrific details of Anderson's crimes. Zachary Todd Anderson of Coon Rapids was charged with five felony crimes: Murder in the second degree (with a maximum penalty of 40 years) Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree (with a maximum penalty of 30 years and $40,000 fine, and not less than 12 years) Kidnapping to facilitate felony or flight (with a maximum penalty of 40 years, and a fine of $15,000 -50,000) Kidnapping to commit great bodily harm (with a maximum penalty of 40 years, and a fine of $15,000-50,000) Theft (of the father's truck); maximum sentence would be five years and a fine of $3,000-10,000. He now has the option of posting $2 million bond. without condi- tions, or $1 million bond with conditions. (The state prosecu- tor asked for $3 million bond.) Another option would be to stay in jail until his court date. His first court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 10. Anderson has requested a state-appointed attorney to defend him. Anderson was charged and will appear in court in Cass County, where the worst of the crimes were committed. He is being held in Crow Wing County Jail about 30 miles away because of crowding issues in the Cass County Jail. Anderson was arrested Saturday after- noon, and was booked into the jail at around 10 that evening. He was not charged until Tuesday morning. The criminal complaint filed with the court details the events of Friday evening and Saturday. It answers several questions, but not the biggest question: Why? According to the complaint, Alayna died from strangulation and blunt-force trauma to her head. He placed her unclothed body in a swamp, and placed brush and debris over her to hide her. He tried to hide Alayna's father's stolen pickup truck in a ravine. About 45 minutes after an AMBER Alert went out state-wide for Alayna, Anderson's father called authorities that he believed his son was the subject of the Alert. That Zachary Anderson's booking photo from Saturday evening. morning, Anderson had called his father requesting permission to visit the family hunting cabin in Leader, near Motley, about 90 minutes from Watkins. Two sheriff's deputies arrived at the cabin and entered it. They found a suicide note on the kitchen table, with blood on the corner of the paper, and 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotgun shells but only one shotgun. No one was in the building. They found wet clothing in the cabin, including the black Riverside Tavern softball T-shirt he had worn at the game Friday night. With the help of K-9 units and additional units, they found Anderson not far away, with fresh cuts on his left wrist, and knee- deep in water. He did not run, and did not resist arrest. At first, when asked where the girl was, he asked "What gift? Deputies led him to the edge of a swampy wooded area that had clearly been disrupted recently; there he pointed to where Alayna would be found, "Over there." Based on the details outlined in the com- plaint, Anderson and Alayna's father Matt had played softball Friday evening. After the game, both stopped at a bar in Watkins; they came back to the Ertl residence and visited until about 4 a.m. Earlier in the evening, Alayna had fallen asleep on the couch, with her pink Princess Elsa blanket. Her mom Kayla put her to bed at around 2:30 a.m. At about 8:30 a.m., Kayla noticed that Alayna was not in her bed or in the house. Anderson and the family vehi- cle (a white GMC pickup) were miss- ing as well. lust before 10 a.m. they called the Meeker County Sheriff's Office who came out and canvassed the area, with no results. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCA) also became involved. Actually, at about 8:30 that morning, Anderson was observed on video surveil- lance buying a bottle of water at a conve- nience store in Browerville. Alone. It took about three hours from the initial call to the county sheriff until an AMBER Alert went out. (This is because there are criteria to be met before such an alert is made: authorities need to believe that the child has been abducted, and they need a description of both the abductor and the vehicle. There were no eyewitnesses to any of the crimes, so that made things take lon- ger.) Thousands of people in Minnesota got an AMBER Alert on their phones at about 1:15 Saturday. The alert was shared on local TV sta- tions and social media; freeway signs also echoed the message. It was after 5 p.m. when the alert was cancelled, with the notation that Alayna had been found, and she was no longer alive. It's EASY to renew or subscribe! By mall, l hone, fax, WeD, or e-mail. (See order form onpage 14.) Ferguson Tractors and Hesston Hay Equipment ALDRICH TRACTOR INC Verndale, MN 56481 218-445-5430 PROTECT THE HOME THAT BRINGS URDREAMS UFE METODAY. Thoma~ Ehllnger AGency, lnG. 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