When Terry Blanchette became a father on New Year’s Eve 2012, his little girl, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, became his entire world.
They lived in the Crowsnest Pass in the Rocky Mountains of southwest Alberta and spent as much time as possible outside enjoying nature.
Terry and Hailey were happy. He said she gave him a reason to be a good person.
But on Sept. 14, 2015, darkness overtook the Pass.
At approximately 2 p.m., an Amber Alert was sent out in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the United States.
Hailey had vanished.
Investigators asked everyone to be on the lookout for a white van with a large rear antenna and a flag attached.
Police were racing against the clock, as they believed Hailey was taken at 3:30 a.m. — approximately 11 hours before the Amber Alert was issued.
It was Terry’s father — Hailey’s grandfather — who discovered she was missing.
And there was more.
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That morning, Bill Blanchette went inside his son’s house when he didn’t get a response to calls, texts or a knock on the door.
Nothing could have prepared him for what he would find.
There was blood on the floor of the living room and in the hallway.
He found his son dead, lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom.
Terry’s throat had been cut.
Bill frantically searched for his granddaughter. There was blood in her crib and on one of her dolls. But the little girl was nowhere to be found.
A massive police presence converged in the Crowsnest Pass.
RCMP officers canvassed the area where Hailey lived with her father. Their home was now taped off as a crime scene.
One neighbour told police he woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone walking outside.
He reported seeing a white commercial van sitting in the alley and said he heard a child’s voice. He told police he watched the van speed away.
Officers reviewed CCTV surveillance video and confirmed there was a white van with a flag attached driving in the area, which led to the description released in the Amber Alert.
It was the neighbour’s tip about the white van that eventually led police to identify a suspect.
It turned out the owner of a local dry cleaner checked on the status of his fleet of vans and realized one had been taken out without consent and then returned.
Police followed up on that tip and seized the van.
It was later revealed there were blood smears found in that van.
The son of one of the owners of the cleaning business, Prestige Cleaners and Tailors, was arrested and taken to the local RCMP detachment for questioning.
The suspect’s name was Derek Saretzky.
Investigators pressed him for information.
Would he lead them to Hailey? Was she still alive?
But it was too late. The Amber Alert ended in heartbreak.
On Sept. 15, 2015, during a candlelight vigil for Hailey, investigators revealed they had found evidence confirming Hailey had been murdered.
The following day, police announced Saretzky, 22, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder as well as causing an indignity to Hailey’s body.
It was a year and a half later, during the trial, that details of this horrific crime were revealed.
By then, Saretzky was also charged with another homicide: the first-degree murder of a senior.
He was accused of killing Terry, Hailey and 69-year-old Hanne Meketech, who was killed five days before the other victims.
Audio and videotaped confessions were played in court.
Saretzky described how he killed Terry and Hailey. He also detailed how he dismembered and cannibalized the little girl.
After three weeks of hearing graphic evidence, it took jurors just three hours to find Saretzky guilty of all three counts of first-degree murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years.
Saretzky has since appealed his conviction for the murder of Hanne Meketech and is appealing his sentence.
The triple murderer’s actions have torn many lives apart — so many people have pain that will never heal.
That includes Saretzky’s own family.
And what they’ve all come to realize is that time isn’t making it any easier.
The families of the victims try their best to focus on honouring Terry and Hailey by living life to the fullest.