Man charged with 1st-degree murder in girl's death

CASS COUNTY, Minn. - The 25-year-old man previously charged in the kidnapping and murder of a 5-year-old girl is now facing first-degree charges. 

A grand jury indicted Zachary Todd Anderson, of Coon Rapids, Friday on 19 counts including first-degree murder, kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct, motor vehicle theft and interference with a dead body. 

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. 

A criminal complaint details how Anderson kidnapped 5-year-old Alayna Ertl and took her back to his family's rural cabin. Her body was found by authorities in a nearby swamp, where an autopsy showed she died from homicidal violence and strangulation. Charges say there was also evidence the girl had been sexually assaulted.

Anderson was a family friend of Ertl's parents and had crashed at their home the night before she went missing. 

In the morning, Ertl's parents realized she and Anderson were missing, as was their truck. 

 


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