Veteran cop who connected Derek Saretzky to 3 homicides gets emotional while testifying
WARNING: Story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers
A veteran RCMP officer took a few seconds to compose himself while testifying at Derek Saretzky's triple-murder trial about finding blood in the bedroom of a missing two-year-old girl whose father had just been found dead.
Saretzky, 24, of Blairmore, Alta., has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Hanne Meketech, 69, whose body was discovered days before Terry Blanchette, 27 and his daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2, were killed. His trial began in Court of Queen's Bench last week.
Sgt. Stephen Browne was the team commander on the Hanne Meketech homicide investigation which began on Sept. 9, 2015, and was also called to Terry Blanchette's home when his body was discovered on Sept. 14. He was the first officer who began to suspect Saretzky was responsible for all three killings.
"I didn't expect to walk into what I walked into," said Browne of the bloody bathroom where Blanchette's body was discovered.
He said Blanchette's father told him that his granddaughter was missing.
Browne immediately began to search the home for the child, but her bedroom was empty and blood was found on a toy.
Emergency procedures allowed police to search Saretzky's apartment without a warrant the next day in hopes the child would be found alive. Inside, Browne noted blood and a crowbar.
Browne said he and some other officers were approached by Saretzky's father, Larry, who runs a cleaning business next door to where his son was living, to tell them his son had "done something bad."
After the officer allowed the father and son to speak briefly, he intervened and pleaded with Derek Saretzky to give him information about Hailey's whereabouts.
The accused killer said: "She's in heaven."
"He said her body was in his sperm cells," said Browne of Saretzky's comments.
Browne said he directed a fellow officer to arrest Saretsky and then walked away.
As Browne began to learn more details, he says he began to suspect Saretzky was responsible for the Meketech homicide too.
Meketech and Blanchette were both attacked in their bedrooms by someone who used the element of surprise. They both suffered blunt force trauma as well as stab wounds.
The moment that turned Saretzky from a person of interest in Meketech's homicide to the prime suspect was when Browne saw a notepad days after the Blanchette slayings that had been seized from his apartment, where he had written: "Hanneh…Terry…the hideous baby."
Earlier in the day, jurors heard that Terry Blanchette's death was so violent, blood spatter expert Sgt. Jennifer Barnes had a difficult time determining what happened where.
She said it appeared Blanchette was struck over and over again in the bathroom of his home, where his father found his body in a pool of blood.
In Blanchette's bedroom, pillows were soaked in blood and drips at the foot of the bed and on the floor "indicate movement" out of the room, said Barnes.
A drag mark led from Blanchette's bedroom toward the bathroom where hundreds of blood spatter stains covered the small room.
Blanchette's blood was also found in his toddler's bedroom, according to Barnes.
- 'A big cut on his neck': Father recalls finding son dead, granddaughter missing at Alberta triple-murder trial
The body of Hanne Meketech, 69, was found in her Coleman home just days before Terry Blanchette's body was discovered in the neighbouring community of Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass area of southern Alberta.
An Amber Alert for his missing daughter ended when Saretzky took police to a firepit where human remains were discovered as well as a bloodstained child's toy that an RCMP lab matched to the toddler.
Within hours of his arrest, Saretzky not only confessed to killing Blanchette and his daughter, he led police to the firepit and performed a re-enactment, prosecutor Photini Papadatou told jurors in her opening statement last week.
Months later, he confessed to killing Meketech and was charged in that slaying, too, Papadatou told the court.
Follow the latest in the trial from our reporters in the courtroom here.