Family of murder victims Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and her father Terrry Blanchette filled several rows in Lethbridge court as closing arguments were presented Monday in the triple-murder trial of Derek Saretzky.
Saretzky, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the September 2015 deaths of Hailey and Terry Blanchette, 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.
Saretzky has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Defence lawyer Patrick Edgerton thanked jurors for their service through a “tough few weeks.”
He then explained they could only find Saretzky guilty if the prosecution proves each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The presumption of innocence means you stand on the side of the accused to begin with, despite our natural inclinations,” Edgerton said.
Defence focussed on the Meketech case and told the jury even if they believe the accused killed Meketech, “there still isn’t enough for you to take the additional leap to planning and deliberation.”
Edgerton went through a statement given by Saretzky to police in March 2016 while in the Calgary Remand Centre.
He suggested his words were of someone who had given up—attempted suicide and gone on a hunger strike.
WATCH BELOW: First of 3 Derek Saretzky video confessions played at triple-murder trial. WARNING: Discretion advised.
Edgerton said police made a lot of suggestions to Saretzky that he agreed, but said he didn’t offer information.
One example defence pointed to was when RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike McCauley asked him if killing Meketech was practice for the others, to which Saretzky replied, “yeah, I guess so.”
In wrapping up his 30-minute closing, Edgerton told jurors he doesn’t have a lot to say about the Blanchette case. He said it’s up to them to decide if the statements to police are reliable.
“That’s up to you,” he said. “What I want you to think about is Hanne Meketech.”
Edgerton did not present any evidence or call any witnesses.
Prosecutor Photini Papadatou spent several hours going through the evidence.
She told the jury in order to convict Saretzky of first-degree murder, they need to find he was the one who killed them, that he planned the killings and that there was a level of deliberation involved in the deaths.
WATCH: The jury in the Derek Saretzky triple-murder trial will begin deliberations Wednesday after it heard closing arguments. As Reid Fiest reports, the Crown says the evidence is conclusive, but the defence argues police influenced one of Saretzky’s three confessions.
The Crown pointed at four similarities in the deaths of Blanchette and Meketech, including a white van seen on CCTV near both scenes, similar injuries including blunt force and sharp-force injuries and the fact both murders happened at night.
Papadatou went through each of the homicides one by one and compared forensic evidence to Saretzky’s own words in multiple videotaped confessions.
She said evidence found in Saretzky’s apartment shows elements of planning and deliberation, such as a calendar with the words “set me free and strength” written over the first few weeks of September 2015.
She also pointed to the “medicine fresh” list seized from the apartment. On it—and crossed out—was Meketech’s name, along with Chy (Cheyenne Dunbar), Terry and words “the hideous baby.”
“That is evidence of planning,” Papadatou told the jury.
Queen’s Bench Justice William Tilleman will give his final instructions to the jury Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.
The jury is currently made up of seven women and seven men, but only 12 can decide the fate of the accused.
At the end of the trial, two of the 14 will be dismissed and then deliberations can begin.
Jurors have had to take sudden and frequent breaks to cope with an overwhelming amount of graphic and disturbing evidence.