Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette's mother says she is receiving a lot of support as she copes with the loss of her two-year-old daughter who was abducted and killed in a small community in southern Alberta.
An emotional Cheyenne Dunbar spoke late Wednesday morning from the town of Blairmore, saying she cannot understand why anyone would harm her sweet child.
"I'm receiving all the support I can get right now," she told reporters Wednesday. "But there's really nothing anybody can do or say to make me feel any better."
Dunbar's statement came shortly after police announced 22-year-old Derek James Saretzky is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of indignity to a body in the deaths of her daughter and the girl's father, 27-year-old Terry Blanchette.
'I'm going to miss her smile, the way she ran around saying, "Mommy."' - Cheyenne Dunbar, mother of Hailey
The 20-year-old mother said that she and Blanchette were on good terms and constantly exchanged photos of their daughter. Dunbar, who lives in Edmonton, said she and the girl's father had an amicable split-custody arrangement for Hailey.
"Terry was an awesome father," she said. "He did everything he could for that little girl."
Dunbar said she was just making arrangements to pick her daughter up when she learned Hailey was missing.
"She was my baby; I don't know why anybody would do this to her," Dunbar said, her voice breaking. "I'm going to miss absolutely everything. I'm going to miss her smile, the way she ran around saying, 'Mommy' — everything.
"She was smart, beautiful, the greatest child ever."
Mother knew accused
She said she and the accused had been friends when she used to live in the Crowsnest Pass, about 230 kilometres southwest of Calgary, but hadn't spoken in three years.
"I never physically dated him. We were just friends," she said. "When I knew him he was a great kid."
RCMP say Saretzky and Blanchette were also acquainted with one another, but investigators did not elaborate.
Saretzky is a resident of Blairmore, the community where Blanchette and his daughter also lived. He was arrested Tuesday and charged today. A white van police believe was used in the abduction was also seized by police.
Saretzky is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Sept. 23 in Lethbridge. He was also charged Wednesday with breaking and entering and theft stemming from an incident in August.
Court records also reveal Saretzky faced stolen property and theft charges in 2012 and 2013, matters that were dealt with by alternative measures.
The case came to the public's attention when an Amber Alert was issued for the girl, who was abducted in the middle of the night from the home where she lived with her father.
It is believed the abduction took place around 3:30 a.m. Monday, but the father's body wasn't found until about 11 a.m. that day. What police officers found at the Blanchette home caused them to have great concern for Hailey's safety.
The toddler's body was discovered late Tuesday in a rural area near Blairmore. Information gathered during the investigation led officers to the area where the body was found, police said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
RCMP Supt. Tony Hamori also expressed the force's deep condolences to the families and said messages of support have been coming from around the world.
"We understand these recent events have been traumatic for the citizens of Crowsnest Pass," he said. "The resilience and strength this community has shown in recent days will undoubtedly serve them in the days ahead."
Police are asking for anyone with information that might help the investigation to call Crowsnest Pass RCMP at 403-562-2866.
The double homicide has shaken the Crowsnest Pass community, which encompasses Blairmore, Coleman, Hillcrest, Bellevue and Frank.
"It's just traumatic. We are a small community, a tight-knit community," said Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter. "It's just really, really hard."
As friends, family and community members gathered Tuesday night for a vigil, they learned the sad news that the little girl had been found dead.
Premier Rachel Notley issued a statement expressing condolences to Hailey's family on behalf of all Albertans.
"During the Amber Alert, the images of Hailey's bright smile reached across the province and into the hearts of every Albertan," she wrote. "We all prayed that she be found, and found safely. Our hearts were broken last night when RCMP shared the tragic news."
RCMP said a homicide investigation into the death of 69-year-old Hanne Meketech in Coleman last week is not connected to the double homicide.