Man convicted of killing 3 in Crowsnest Pass seeks acquittal in senior's death
WARNING: Story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers
The man found guilty of murdering three people — including a toddler — in the Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta wants the province's top court to overturn one conviction based on what his lawyer called a "power imbalance" between him and police.
Derek Saretzky was convicted in 2017 of three counts of first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Hanne Meketech, 69, Terry Blanchette, 27, and his daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2.
Saretzky's lawyer, Balfour Der, appeared before an Alberta Court of Appeal panel in Calgary on Monday.
Police arrested and interrogated Saretzky in September 2015, in connection with the deaths of Hailey and her father. At that point, he confessed to the killings and also took police to the campsite where he murdered the toddler. He then performed a re-enactment.
'Epitome of a power imbalance'
Although he originally requested a new trial in connection to all three convictions, Saretzky abandoned his appeal of the father and daughter's murders.
On Monday, Der asked the panel to substitute an acquittal in relation to Meketech, a former neighbour of Saretzky's in Coleman who was found beaten and stabbed in her bedroom on Sept. 9, 2015.
The appeal arguments focused on Saretzky's confession, which came during an RCMP interrogation, more than six months after he was arrested and charged with Hailey and Blanchette's killings.
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"This is the epitome of a power imbalance," said Der in arguing his client's Charter rights were violated when police didn't explicitly tell Saretzky he could call a lawyer.
"On the one hand, we have this police officer who is trained and experienced in interrogation," said Der. "On the other side, we have a 22-year-old high school dropout."
Der explained that when RCMP questioned his client about the Meketech murder in March 2016, Saretzky had recently lost about a third of his body weight, attempted suicide and been in an induced coma for two days in hospital.
'Obviously a very important case'
Prosecutor Christine Rideout argued Saretzky was never formally detained when he spoke with police about the Meketech murder, so police weren't obligated to advise him of his right to counsel.
It's not yet known if the judges will make a ruling on Monday or whether they'll reserve their decision, though Justice Peter Martin told Der that extra time would be allowed for lawyers to make their submissions.
"This is obviously a very important case and an important issue," said Martin.
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Saretzky was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 75 years. He is also appealing his sentence, but a date for those arguments won't be set until after the conviction appeal is settled.
Five days after Meketech was killed, Blanchette's body was found in the bathroom of his Blairmore home. His daughter was missing.
Saretzky confessed to bludgeoning Blanchette with a crowbar and then slitting his throat before stealing the sleeping toddler from her crib upstairs and taking her to a campsite belonging to his relatives.
There, he told police, he killed the young girl, dismembered her body and performed acts of cannibalism before burning the remains.
- An earlier version of this story stated that Derek Saretzky was asking the court of appeal for a new trial. In fact, he wants the province's top court to substitute an acquittal for his conviction in Meketech's death.Feb 10, 2020 1:05 PM MT