‘Every person simply desires to know why’: Watkins residents grieve death of Alayna Ertl, 5


WATKINS, Minn. – Alayna Ertl lived the carefree lifestyles of a 5-yr-vintage in a small important Minnesota metropolis. She swung a hula hoop around her small frame and rode a bicycle on metropolis sidewalks outdoor her tan-sided residence. She followed around a cousin a few years older, whom she loved.

“Laynie,” as family participants are known as her, was a giggly and now and again silly female who loved to wear skirts and jewelry, a relative stated but additionally cherished to play with her older brother on move-cart-type vehicles that their father built.

It’s unfathomable to people on this stoplight-unfastened metropolis of fewer than 1,000 citizens that the lady should come to be the sufferer of a homicide. Unfathomable that the accused culprit is a man her circle of relatives taken into consideration a friend, a person whom many on the town got here to understand as he spent Friday nights this summer season playing softball on Alayna’s dad’s team and tipping back some drinks within the local bars.

“Anyone just wants to know why,” Chris Cates stated as she stood close to the counter of Stein’s Thriftway Foods, the local grocery save wherein she works. “What possesses someone that’s an own family friend? That’s the main question that’s placing over the city.”

It’s a query reverberating during the state, too, as 25-yr-old Zachary T. Anderson, of Monticello, sat inside the Crow Wing County jail Monday on in all likelihood purpose murder and kidnapping. Formal expenses are predicted Tuesday in Cass County, where Ertl’s frame changed into discovered Top Theto.

Alayna changed into last visible whilst she turned into positioned to mattress at 2 a.M. Saturday. Her mom, Kayla Ertl, found she lacked at 8 a.M., authorities stated. Anderson, who changed into staying over on the Ertls’ home, was also gone, in conjunction with a pickup truck belonging to Matt Ertl, Alayna’s father.


the government observed the lacking truck about 8 hours afterward, property owned by Anderson’s family in Cass County. No one changed into inside the truck or in a cabin at the property close to Motley, about 80 miles north of Watkins. Authorities used dogs to song Anderson to a wooded vicinity 440 yards from the cabin, positioned numerous miles down a gravel road from the entrance to Barren region Park, a collection of small cabins and trailer homes nestled amongst tall timber.
woman Alarmed, Anderson did no longer flee or resist arrest and furnished facts that led the government to Alayna’s frame in a swampy region some hundred yards from the cabin.

An initial autopsy by using the Ramsey County medical expert said Alayna died of “homicidal violence.”

As of Monday afternoon, the cabin and surrounding belongings have been cordoned off with yellow tape that study “Sheriffs line do not cross.”

Looking for answers

When you consider that Alayna’s body turned into located, a circulate of friends and own family participants carrying balloons, filled animals, and different gifts have regarded on the Ertls’ domestic. It sits a stone’s throw from the Catholic church in which Alayna could be remembered at a funeral Friday morning. Neighbors halted approaching reporters, pronouncing best that they and the family wanted privacy.

Inside Gordie’s bar on primary Street, where Anderson on occasion went with Matt Ertl and others after softball video games, instructor Kendria Kramer shook her head Monday. In a small, tight-knit community, speculation often spreads speedily about what may have led as much as something so tragic. But humans in Watkins, she stated, are stunned.

“I don’t think everybody has a clue,” she said.

Nicole Rohrbeck, whose husband is Matt Ertl’s cousin, said Alayna got here to her residence for haircuts and played along with her children, one in all who turned into born only some weeks before Alayna.