Family friend charged with sexually assaulting, murdering Meeker County 5-year-old
WALKER, MINN. – A friend of Alayna Ertl’s family was charged Tuesday with abducting the 5-year-old from her home in Watkins, Minn., sexually assaulting the girl and killing her before leaving her body 80 miles to the north in a swampy area of central Minnesota.
Zachary T. Anderson, 25, who has lived in Monticello and, most recently, Coon Rapids, was charged in Cass County District Court with second-degree murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and theft of a motor vehicle.
In Watkins, population 1,000, nearly 1,000 people attended a vigil for Alayna on Tuesday evening. Holding candles, they gathered under the stately tower of the Church of St. Anthony across the street from the Ertls’ house. On a video screen, a larger-than-life image of the sandy-haired girl in a flowery headband looked out over the crowd.