Derek Saretzky 'lost' and 'shaking' hours before he's suspected of 1st murder, says aunt

The night he is accused of murdering a 69-year-old woman, Derek Saretzky was acting lost, lonely and sad, according to his aunt who had him over for dinner hours before Hanne Meketech was bludgeoned and stabbed to death, jurors heard on Monday. WARNING: Story contains graphic content.

WARNING: Story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

A jury is now deliberating the fate of Derek Saretzky, top right, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Hanne Meketech, and Terry and Hailey Blanchette. (Facebook/RCMP)

The night he is accused of murdering a 69-year-old woman, Derek Saretzky was acting lost, lonely and sad, according to his aunt who had him over for dinner hours before Hanne Meketech was bludgeoned and stabbed to death, jurors at the Alberta man's triple-murder trial heard on Monday. 

Carmeilla Saretzky — who is married to Kevin Saretzky, Derek's father's brother — testified on Day 9 of her nephew's trial in Lethbridge, Alta. She told the court she knew Meketech and was her Special Olympics coach.

Saretzky, 24, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Meketech, Terry Blanchette, 27, and his daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2. He is also charged with performing an indignity to the child's body. The father and daughter are believed to have been killed five days after Meketech's was found dead on Sept. 9, 2015.

A regular at Holy Trinity Church in Blairmore, Alta., Carmeilla Saretzky spotted her nephew at mass on Sept. 8, 2015. She said it had been about a decade since he'd attended. The two hugged but she said Derek's initial smile disappeared.

"It quickly turned to sorrow and sadness," she testified. "He looked lost, he was shaking."

Worried about her nephew, she invited him over to her Coleman home for dinner where she says he was talking in broken sentences, changing topics midway through a thought.

She told jurors she asked her nephew what was wrong and offered to help, but he wouldn't explain his mood.

"Derek, what's wrong, tell auntie … I'll help you," she told him.

Carmeilla Saretzky says her nephew Derek was acting sad and strange in the hours before he is accused of murdering an elderly woman in the community. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

He stayed for strawberry ice cream and then his aunt drove him to his Blairmore apartment around 10:30 p.m. Sometime after midnight, the accused is suspected of killing Meketech in her trailer in Coleman.

A neighbour of Meketech's previously testified her door was closed and secured around 8:45 p.m. on Sept. 8. By 11 a.m. on Sept. 9, Meketech had failed to show up at the restaurant where she had a daily meal.

The next day, Carmeilla Saretzky said Derek showed up again at church. Afterwards, she took her nephew to the rural property she owns with her sisters so she could take photos. It's the same property where Hailey's remains and DNA were found in a fire pit.

On the 20-minute drive, Carmeilla Saretzky said her nephew asked how often the family spent time at the site. She said it was mostly on weekends. 

Aunt instructs son to call 911

Six days later, on Sept. 15, 2015, Carmeilla Saretzky's son called her to say the fire pit on the rural property was smoking and there were what appeared to be bones poking out of the ashes.

By that time, the family knew of the Amber Alert issued for Hailey and they were aware police were interested in a Prestige Cleaners van. Carmeilla Saretzky told her son to call 911.

Outside the Lethbridge courthouse Monday, she thanked the members of her small community for the support her family has been shown.

"Eventually when we have answers, maybe we can maybe get some closure," she told those gathered.

'Charred' and 'delicate' bones found in ashes

Earlier in the day, medical examiner Dr. Tera Jones detailed each of the 42 injuries suffered by Terry Blanchette. She also examined bones found in the fire pit ashes believed to be Hailey's remains. Though no DNA was recovered, a forensic anthropologist determined the bones belonged to a child between the ages of two and four.

It is the same location where Saretzky confessed to strangling, dismembering and burning the body of the toddler.

Jones told jurors she examined several "charred" and "delicate" bone fragments that had been sifted from the fire pit ashes with "various different tool marks" on them. 

She said she was unable to determine the child's cause of death.

Blanchette suffered 42 injuries

The girl's father suffered 30 blunt force injuries and 12 "sharp force injury" or knife wounds. Blanchette was beaten from his forehead to his shins and everywhere in between and suffered several skull fractures causing bleeding in his brain.

The largest of his knife injuries was a "gaping" slice on his neck from earlobe to earlobe measuring 25 cm.

Jones said the amount of blood loss indicated Blanchette's heart was still pumping when his throat was slashed.

Meketech also suffered blunt force trauma and knife wounds, but a different medical examiner performed her autopsy and testified earlier in the trial.

Last week, jurors watched two police interrogation videos where Saretzky confessed to the three killings.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice William Tilleman is presiding over the trial.

  • Get the latest developments in the trial from our reporter in the courtroom in our blog below. On our mobile app? You can also see it here.