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Balloons released for Alayna

Adults and children on Sunday gathered at a Pillager park to honor the memory of Alayna Ertl, the 5-year-old Watkins girl abducted from her home and whose body was found later in rural Cass County north of Pillager.

People release balloons in memory of Alayna Ertl Sunday at Pillager Park. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
People release balloons in memory of Alayna Ertl Sunday at Pillager Park. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)

Adults and children on Sunday gathered at a Pillager park to honor the memory of Alayna Ertl, the 5-year-old Watkins girl abducted from her home and whose body was found later in rural Cass County north of Pillager.

The event, hosted by Brooke Rooney, was highlighted by the release of numerous balloons into the air. There also was music, cookies and lemonade.

Alayna was abducted from her home in the early morning hours of Aug. 20. Zachary Todd Anderson, 25, Coon Rapids, has been accused of committing the crime. After the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension issued an Amber Alert for Alayna, Anderson was located and arrested at property his family owns in southern Cass County. Alayna's body was also found on the property.

Anderson was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of kidnapping and theft-all felonies.

Alayna's funeral was Friday in her hometown of Watkins. Anderson's next court hearing is Oct. 10 in Walker.

Related Topics: PILLAGER
Growing up in the Brainerd lakes area I realized that I never wanted to leave, so it is a true blessing that I was able to find a job at the Dispatch doing something I love. As a visual journalist, I work in the mediums of photography and videography to bring our readers everything from sports, hard news, weather and local events to slice of life documentation of our coverage area.
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