Hanne Meketech struggled with attacker and died from head wound, Derek Saretzky murder trial hears
WARNING: Story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers
Hanne Meketech appears to have struggled with her attacker as she was struck over the head and stabbed in the neck in her bedroom, according to an expert witness who testified at the triple-murder trial of Derek Saretzky on Thursday.
Dr. Jeffery Gofton, a medical examiner who performed the autopsy on the 69-year-old's body, said a blunt-force impact to Meketech's head caved in part of her skull and was almost certainly the fatal wound.
But he said she also suffered two stab wounds to the neck while she was "almost dead" from the head injury.
Saretzky, 24, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Meketech, two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and her father, Terry Blanchette, 27.
Meketech's body was discovered in her Coleman, Alta., home on Sept. 9, 2015. The bodies of the father and daughter were found several days later, in the neighbouring Crowsnest Pass community of Blairmore.
Saretzky, of Blairmore, is also charged with committing an indignity to the body of the toddler.
Day 2 of the trial in Court of Queen's Bench in Lethbridge, Alta., focused on Meketech's slaying.
- Follow the latest in the trial from our reporters in the courtroom here.
Wounds to Meketech's hands and arms suggest there was "a struggle of some type," Gofton told the court, appearing via CCTV from Virginia, where he now works.
Meketech also had two blunt-force injuries to her forehead that were less severe than the skull-fracture injury on the left side of her head.
Gofton said the forehead injuries were consistent with being struck by a crowbar, pipe or baseball bat.
The scalp injuries around the skull fracture had "ragged and irregular edges," Gofton testified. He did not say what type of object might have caused those wounds.
Bloodstains in the bedroom where Meketech's body was found suggest she was struck by an object at an impact point not far from the ground, a blood-spatter expert testified earlier in the day.
"It would be a significant force that caused these small spatter stains," RCMP Sgt. Ashley Davidson told the court.
He was referring to hundreds of tiny droplets of blood found in one corner of Meketech's bedroom in the southwestern Alberta community of Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass.
Analysis of the stain patterns in her bedroom determined the blood originated from a point 41 centimetres above the floor, said Davidson.
In addition to the small droplet stains in the northeast corner of the bedroom, Davidson said there were also larger droplets of blood on the west wall that would have come from a blood-soaked object being swung through the air.
There was also a large pool of blood, covering about six square feet, below Meketech's body, he said.
"She was lying on her right side, naked except for she had some underwear bottoms on," Davidson said.
While bloodstains were found throughout the home, those outside the bedroom appear to have come from Meketech's pets tracking blood around. The injury-related bloodstains were limited to the bedroom, Davidson said.
The home also had signs of forced entry, according to testimony earlier in the day from Const. Carla Leanne Perrin, one of the first police officers to arrive at Meketech's home.
There were "obvious splits in the door frame" and a door latch was found on the floor, Perrin testified.
The trial is expected to last three to four weeks, hear from dozens of witnesses and include nearly 40 exhibits, some of them quite gruesome.
Before the jury was sworn in on Wednesday, one juror was excused by Justice William Tilleman, who is overseeing the trial, because he said he would have physical difficulty if the testimony contained graphic evidence.
When Blanchette was found dead and his daughter missing from their home in Blairmore, a community of about 2,000 people, on Sept. 14, 2015, the case drew national attention.
An Amber Alert was issued for Hailey, but she was found dead the next day in a rural area near Blairmore.
Saretzky was charged with two counts of first-degree murder two days later.
Seven months later, police charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Meketech.
Meketech was found dead in her home on Sept. 9, 2015.
By "pure coincidence," Papadatou said the officer in charge of the Meketech investigation went to the scene of the Blanchette killing and noticed striking similarities between the two slayings, which led police to later link the cases.
Day 3 of the trial begins Friday morning and is expected to hear from friends of Meketech, including a neighbour who was outside her home the day before her body was found.