WATKINS, Minn. (WCCO) — A small town in central Minnesota is dealing with the death of a 5-year-old girl who was taken from her home in the middle of the night.

Alayna Ertl’s body was found Saturday after an AMBER Alert prompted a state-wide search. The Meeker County sheriff says investigators found the child’s body in Cass County several hours after she was abducted from her home in Watkins.

READ MORE: Twin Cities Man Found With Self-Inflicted Stab Wound Charged With Murdering Father

Authorities say 26-year-old Zach Anderson of Coon Rapids took the girl from her home, where he was staying as a guest of her parents. Now Anderson is now in custody, awaiting murder charges.

The people of Watkins continue to show their support for Alayna Ertl’s parents, gathering non -stop at the family home since they first heard she was taken.

Meeker County authorities say Alayna’s parents put her in her bed at 2 a.m. Saturday. Family friend Zach Anderson was staying the night. When the parents woke up, they say Alayna and Anderson were gone.

For nine hours Saturday, police from all over the state and the public searched for Anderson, who police say had taken the Ertl’s vehicle. Investigators traced a cell phone inside to Todd County briefly, but it was ultimately tips from the public they say led them to Cass County, where they found Alayna’s body and Anderson.

READ MORE: New York City Announces First-In-The-Nation Vaccine Mandate For Private Companies

Authorities located the stolen vehicle on property owned by Anderson’s family in rural Cass County. Nobody was in the vehicle or the property, but authorities found Anderson in a wooded area about a quarter mile from the cabin. Authorities say Anderson didn’t resist arrest.

Alayna Ertl’s body was found in a swampy area a few hundred yards from the cabin. The medical examiner said Sunday the girl died from homicidal violence.

It was the outcome everyone had prayed wouldn’t happen.

After finding Alayna, the Meeker County sheriff says investigators are still searching for the answer to one important question:  Why did this happen? What was the motive?

A search of court records shows Anderson’s only run-ins with law enforcement have been over relatively minor traffic violations.

MORE NEWS: Minnesota State Fair Reinstates Police Force

A GoFundMe page has been set up to donat e in Alayna’s honor and help with funeral expenses.