'You are an animal, an indescribable beast': Family of Derek Saretzky's murder victims have their say in court
WARNING: Story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers
The families of Derek Saretzky's victims got the chance to have their voices heard today before the Alberta man is sentenced for the killings of a toddler, her father and a senior citizen.
Emotions were running high at Saretzky's sentencing hearing on Thursday. The Lethbridge courtroom was packed with police, jurors, media and the friends and family of the victims as the triple murderer was described as a "beast."
After deliberating three hours on Wednesday, the jury found Saretzky, 24, guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Terry Blanchette, 27, his daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2, and Hanne Meketech, 69.
He was also found guilty of performing an indignity to a body, related to the toddler.
"The horror she endured before she died will haunt me for the rest of my life," Terry's sister Amanda Blanchette told the court.
Saretzky automatically faces a life sentence. The only issue is whether he will be eligible for parole in 25, 50 or 75 years.
All 12 jurors recommended Saretzky not be allowed to apply for parole for 75 years, meaning he would likely die in prison. The Crown is also seeking 75 years behind bars.
Defence lawyer Patrick Edgerton told the court "legal issues" he needs to research arose during the Crown's submissions. He will submit his arguments in writing next month and Saretzky will be sentenced on Aug. 9 by Court of Queen's Bench Justice William Tilleman.
Read aloud in court Thursday were seven victim impact statements written by the loved ones of those Saretzky killed on two different nights in September 2015.
Though at times the prosecutors, judge, even a sheriff displayed emotion, Saretzky simply stared straight ahead.
'He stole an innocent baby'
A statement from Amanda Blanchette was read by Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou.
"I carry a sadness so deep in my heart that sometimes it physically hurts," she wrote. "He stole an innocent baby."
Hailey's mother, Cheyenne Dunbar, said in her victim impact statement that the loss of her daughter has torn her life apart. She says she struggles daily with anxiety and depression.
"She was my world and my everything to me," Dunbar said. "They say time heals all wounds. I'm here to tell you it doesn't."
Carrie Morency, a close friend of Meketech, said she will never be able to forgive Saretzky.
"You have destroyed everything we knew and felt safe with," she said. "You are an animal, an indescribable beast."
Victims 'mere pawns' of Saretzky's 'thrill seeking'
In his sentencing submissions, prosecutor Michael Fox told the judge Saretzky had "concocted, created, devised a plan to execute three people."
In asking for a life sentence with no chance of parole for 75 years, plus five years to be served concurrently for the indignity to a body conviction, Fox said the victims "were mere pawns of Mr. Saretzky's thrill seeking and unspeakable violence."
"There is no possible explanation for this," said Fox. "Other than the suggestion that Mr. Saretzky thought he had to enhance his own health by [cannibalizing the toddler].
"[Saretzky's] callousness defies comparison to any other case that I've been able to find."
Fox pointed out that Saretzky appeared to be smiling through parts of the trial.
"His conduct betrays any suggestion that he harbours any true remorse," said Fox.
Meketech was a former neighbour of Saretzky's.
On Sept. 9, 2015, Saretzky broke into her home around midnight, attacked her first with a baseball bat and then a knife. She died on her bedroom floor.
Five days later, Saretzky broke into Blanchette's home, killed him with a crowbar and a knife and took the sleeping Hailey from her crib before taking the child to a rural campsite and strangling her. He performed acts of cannibalism before burning the remains.
The child's final moments continue to torment her family.
Terry-Lynn Dunbar told the court she is tormented by how scared her granddaughter must have been.
"I can hear her screaming in my mind begging for her mom and her dad.... The horror she must have endured haunts my every moment."
In a police video, Saretzky re-enacted the killing of the girl and the ensuing indignities.
In the firepit ashes, police recovered hundreds of bone and tooth fragments belonging to a child. Hailey's blood was found on a toy and in a metal pot nearby and on a pair of boots seized from Saretzky's apartment.
Saretzky told police he had feelings for Cheyenne Dunbar, Hailey's mother and Blanchette's ex-girlfriend, and said he wasn't aware she was no longer living with her daughter.
Prosecutors presented about three weeks of evidence while defence lawyer Patrick Edgerton called none.
- 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.
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- Derek Saretzky told police he didn't think anyone cared about senior he's accused of killing
- 'She cried a little bit': Derek Saretzky details kidnapping and killing of child in interrogation video
- Derek Saretzky 'lost' and 'shaking' hours before he's suspected of 1st murder, says aunt