'Everybody just wants to know why': Watkins residents grieve death of Alayna Ertl, 5
WATKINS, MINN. – Alayna Ertl lived the carefree life of a 5-year-old in a small central Minnesota town. She swung a hula hoop around her small frame and rode a bicycle on city sidewalks outside her tan-sided house. She followed around a cousin a few years older, whom she adored.
“Laynie,” as family members called her, was a giggly and sometimes silly girl who loved to wear skirts and jewelry, a relative said, but also loved to play with her older brother on go-cart-type cars that their father built.
It’s unfathomable to people in this stoplight-free town of fewer than 1,000 residents that the girl could end up the victim of a homicide. Unfathomable that the accused perpetrator is a man her family considered a friend, a man whom many in town came to recognize as he spent Friday nights this summer playing softball on Alayna’s dad’s team and tipping back a few drinks in the local bars.