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Charges Expected Tuesday In 5-Year-Old Girl's Kidnapping, Homicide

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Charges are expected to come down Tuesday on the man suspected of kidnapping and killing his co-worker's 5-year-old daughter.

Twenty-five-year-old Zachary Anderson, of Coon Rapids, is being held in jail in connection to the weekend death of Alayna Ertl. The Cass County attorney said he plans to file charges by noon on Tuesday.

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, an autopsy showed that Ertl died of "homicidal violence." Few other details on the girl's death have been released.

On Saturday, an Amber Alert went out after Ertl was reported missing that morning from her home in Watkins, located in central Minnesota. She was put to bed around 2 a.m. and was missing at 8 a.m. The girl's parents said Anderson took her.

Anderson, a family friend of Ertl's and her father's co-worker, had stayed at the family's home on Friday night. He was also missing the morning.

Investigators found Ertl Saturday evening about 80 miles north of her home in Cass County, near Anderson's family cabin. Anderson led authorities to the body.

"They're hurting.  They're hurting a lot," Father Aaron Nett, of St. Anthony Catholic Church, said.

Father Nett has met with the family on multiple occasions since Saturday as they grieve the sudden loss of a child.

"This was a very hurtful and painful and tragic and, often times, there aren't words that do much good during those times," he said.  "For me, I just let them know I'm praying for them."

Investigators have not yet detailed how exactly the girl died.

Records show that Anderson's only run-ins with the law prior to Saturday had been for traffic violations.

Ertl's family has yet to comment on the girl's death. Meanwhile, the community in Watkins is in mourning.

A GoFundMe page has been set up in Alayna's honor and help with funeral expenses.

The family is now planning a funeral.  The burial arrangements hit close to home for Tom Ertl, of Ertl Funeral Home.   He is Alayna's third cousin.

"It's family and I know the family well, so yeah.  It's difficult.  It's one of the hardest things you'll ever do," Ertl said.

Funeral services for Alayna Ertl are set 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Watkins. There will be a visitation from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and on Friday from 9 to 10 a.m., both at the Ertl Funeral Home in Watkins. There will also be parish prayers at 8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.

A vigil is planned for the public Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. in the St. Anthony Catholic Church parking lot at 170 Meeker Avenue South in Watkins.

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