Aunt testifies Derek Saretzky was acting strangely in days leading up to deaths of Hailey, Terry Blanchette
WARNING: This story contains violent, graphic details. Discretion is advised.
Saretzky, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the September 2015 deaths of Hailey and her father Terry, who was 27, in the southern Alberta community of Blairmore. He is also accused of killing 69-year-old Hanne Meketech, who was found dead five days earlier in her mobile home in nearby Coleman, Alta.
Carmellia Saretzky testified Monday afternoon, saying she was surprised to see her nephew at church on Sept. 8, 2015.
She is the music minister at Holy Trinity Catholic church in the Crowsnest Pass and said it was the first time she had seen her nephew at church in years.
“He was sitting near the candles…slouched down,” she said. “He had a big smile…very happy to see me. But it quickly turned to sorrow and sadness. He looked lonely…he was shaking.”
Carmellia said she invited Derek to supper at her home, noting, “he just wasn’t himself.”
“He would blurt out stuff that we couldn’t understand.”
Carmellia told the jury her nephew said he “had done something bad, something really bad.”
She said she encouraged him to go to police and asked if it was so bad that he would go to jail.
“Not unless they figure out it’s me,” she said he answered.
Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the case
The following day when she attended church, Carmellia said Derek was there once again.
She took him for coffee, then for a drive to a rural property she owns with her two sisters, about 7 kilometres from Blairmore.
Carmellia said her family refers to the property as “the ranch.” She said Derek walked around and took a specific interest in the woodpile near the firepit.
She said he inquired “how often someone comes up here, and I said ‘mostly on weekends.’”
Outside of court, Carmellia thanked family, friends and people in Lethbridge and the Crowsnest Pass community for their support.
“They’ve been very good with us throughout this very trying time,” she said.
“The Blanchette family, who continues to send us messages of love and support and prayers…Our heart goes out to those families of Terry—it’s hard for all of us.”
She said she doesn’t know the graphic details of the case, as she was told to avoid media coverage until after she testified.
“I don’t know if i want to see, but eventually when we have answers, we can maybe get some closure,” she said.
According to an agreed statement of facts, it was Carmellia’s son who alerted police Sept. 15.
He said he found the firepit smouldering at the ranch, which is where the remains of Dunbar Blanchette were found.
Court also heard Monday a cause of death could not be determined for the little girl because her remains were too badly burned.
Dr. Tera Jones was the first witness to testify in the third week of the trial.
The expert witness said she examined “multiple charred delicate fragments of bone” and tooth belonging to Hailey.
She said she attempted to assemble the remains into the proper anatomic position.
“Some of them had very specific tool marks on them,” Jones testified. “It’s unusual to have a child’s remains with these tool marks…and to be in a fragment and burned state like this.”
According to an agreed statement of facts read to the jury on the first day of the trial, a forensic anthropologist also examined the bone and tooth fragments and determined they belonged to a child between the ages of 2 and 4. DNA was destroyed when the remains were burned.
Jones also detailed the extensive injuries Hailey’s father Terry Blanchette suffered. At one point, the jury took an abrupt break from the graphic testimony.
The forensic pathologist said Blanchette had 30 blunt force injuries all over his body and numerous sharp force injuries.
Jones detailed each of those, starting with head injuries that included a fractured skull and bruising on his brain.
The jury heard Blanchette’s throat was cut.
Saretzky has pleaded not guilty to the murders, although court has already heard that he confessed to police.
Last week, jurors spent two days watching videotaped confessions by Saretzky to police. A re-enactment video was shown Friday.
The police video showed Saretzky, his hands handcuffed in front of him, taking investigators to the spot where he told them he choked Hailey with a shoelace before dismembering her and throwing her body in a campground firepit.
With files from The Canadian Press
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