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12-year-old Minn. girl who apparently drowned was longboarding along trail near lake

A memorial to JaLysa Anne Cook sits next to flowing water where the Central Lakes Trail crosses the channel between lakes Cowdrey and Darling. (Lowell Anderson | Echo Press)

A 12-year-old Alexandria girl who died in an apparent drowning was longboarding along the Central Lakes Trail.

JaLysa Anne Cook was found in about 3 feet of water Friday, April 28, between Lakes Cowdry and Darling on the west side of Alexandria.

Cook, a student at Discovery Middle School, was reportedly with another girl and longboarding, which is a type of skateboard, according to her mother, Amanda Rustman.

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said Monday it is still unclear exactly what happened, but after “a series of events”, the sheriff’s office was called out about 5:30 p.m Friday., along with the Douglas County Water Rescue Team.

Cook was with another girl on the Central Lakes Trail, almost two miles northwest of Big Ole Central Park, and that when something happened, the girl called her own mother. The mother, Wolbersen said, then called Cook’s father, Jeremy Cook.

Through a Facebook message to the Echo Press on Monday, Rustman said she immediately called 911 after she talked to JaLysa’s friend. Rustman said she drove to the scene as Jeremy has a broken back from a vehicle accident last fall and cannot drive.

Wolbersen said there was probably a 30-35 minute delay from when the incident happened to when 911 was called.

“It is not unusual for there to be a delay like that,” Wolbersen said.

Search efforts began immediately in the water and on shore about 6:10 p.m. After the girl was found, life-saving efforts were immediately started and then North Ambulance brought Cook to the Douglas County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The site where Cook was found was next to the channel between the two lakes near several houses on the west side of Alexandria. There is a strong current in the channel.

An autopsy is being performed at the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey. Wolbersen said it may take up to a week for the sheriff’s office to receive the autopsy results.

“There’s not much more at this point, other than the investigation is still active,” said Wolbersen.

Discovery Middle School Principal Matt Aker said he, along with his staff and students, are saddened by JaLysa’s death.

“I’m feeling it,” Aker said. “It’s so sad. I’m really feeling the loss of JaLysa’s, who was such a wonderful student.”

Aker said Cook’s teachers are feeling the impact of her death as well. He said that the school has a crisis team in place and that they met early Saturday after hearing of Cook’s death.

He said a notice was sent out to families of Discovery Middle School so that parents could talk to their children about it and to let them know that the school has a support team in place for students if they need it.

“We just want to support the students and the staff as best we can,” said Aker. “We are definitely in support mode right now.”

Services set

A visitation for Cook will take place Wednesday, May 3 from 4-7 p.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria. The funeral has been set for 1 p.m., Thursday, May 4, at the church. Arrangements are being handled by Anderson Funeral Home in Alexandria.

Fundraisers in place

Two GoFundMe campaigns have been started for the family. According to one GoFundMe website, Cook "was her mom's best friend, her daddy's little girl, her brother's adoring little sister. This has devastated her family both emotionally and financially."

The GoFundMe campaigns can be accessed at and Donations may also be made at New Life Christian Church.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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