Derek Saretzky’s killing of a senior citizen was a rehearsal for the slaying of a two-year-old girl and her father, he told police.
That’s according to a filmed interrogation presented Friday at Saretzky’s trial in Lethbridge, Alta, where the accused triple-murderer told RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike McCauley that he chose his initial victim because he “didn’t think anybody cared about her.”
Hanne Meketech, 69, was found deceased in her home in Coleman on Sept. 9, 2015, a few days before Terry Blanchette, 27, and his two-year-old daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette were found dead in the neighbouring Crowsnest Pass community of Blairmore.
Saretzky described breaking into the elderly woman’s home, striking her on the head with a baseball bat and stabbing her.
“Was it practice for the next one a little bit,” asks McCauley in the March 2, 2016 interview.
“Yeah, I guess so,” replies Saretzky.
“And so did you plan to do the other two all along, but you wanted to get the courage for them by doing this?” asks McCauley.
“I guess so,” replies Saretzky, looking gaunt and thin in the interview conducted at the Calgary Remand Centre. In the video McCauley, referred to how the suspect attempted to take his own life about a week earlier and had been on a hunger strike.
About six months earlier, Saretzky confessed to killing Blanchette and Hailey.
“I regret it,” he says in the video. “I wish I hadn’t have done it.”
The admission was one of a string of disturbing video and audio confessions presented by Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou on Thursday and Friday as Saretzky’s triple-murder trial concluded its second week.
Jurors watched as Saretzky described killing Blanchette with a crowbar, slitting his throat to drain his blood and of abducting Hailey, muffling her cries with a pillow.
Earlier on Friday, jurors watched a video of Saretzky leading police to Hailey’s remains. In it, Saretzky is standing in handcuffs at a campsite next to a still smoking fire pit. The accused described starting a fire with books and bits of wood before strangling the little girl.
“So you choked her here,” asks McCauley.
“Yeah,” replies Saretzky.
The accused said he dismembered Hailey, drank her blood and burnt her remains, prompting Papadatou to call for an adjournment after at least one juror became visibly upset.
After the adjournment, the video showed Saretzky explaining how he said a prayer for Hailey after burning her body.
“What kind of prayer?” asks McCauley.
“May God rest your soul, something… I don’t know exactly what it is, but something along those lines,” he says.
He then described throwing some of his clothes, boots and a knife into the fire and explained how he drove back to his Blairmore apartment where he had a shower and smoked marijuana.
“I was traumatized,” says Saretzky. “I didn’t really know what just happened.”
On the drive back to the Crowsnest Pass RCMP detachment, Saretzky said he had seen Blanchette a month before.
“He gave me a really dirty look,” he says.
The accused said Blanchette had attacked him with a bat a few years earlier, possibly in connection to his relationship with Hailey’s mother Cheyenne Dunbar. He told McCauley he had feelings for Cheyenne and that Blanchette used to beat her, which made him angry.
“So it was pay back at least,” says McCauley.
“Yeah I guess,” he replies.
“Do you think (Cheyenne) will be more happy that (Blanchette’s) gone or more sad that Hailey’s gone,” asks McCauley later in the video.
“Probably sad, sad for quite a while,” replies Saretzky.
The video concluded with police taking Saretzky for a burger and poutine for what McCauley called a “celebration dinner.”
In court, McCauley noted the accused’s conduct during the reenactment differed from his initial two-hour interrogation of Saretzky, filmed in the Crowsnest Pass RCMP detachment earlier that day, in which the accused blamed the devil for his actions.
“I felt like I was getting a more truthful motive,” said McCauley in court.
Jurors watched the video on Thursday. In it, the two men sat very close to one another, their knees almost touching. Saretzky remained evasive with McCauley for about an hour before he told the officer that, “the devil made me turn her into ashes.”
“Why did the devil tell you to kill (Blanchette)?” asks McCauley.
“He said he’s a terrible father,” replies Saretzky.
Earlier on Thursday, jurors heard an audio recording that led to Saretzky’s arrest. In the recording RCMP officers Sgt. Stephen Browne, Const. Amanda Wilkinson and Const. Chad Koroluk and Saretzky’s father confront the accused in the back of the family’s dry-cleaning business.
They pleaded with Saretzky for information on the toddler’s whereabouts.
“Our number one goal here is to find Hailey,” says Browne. “We’re trying to find her to bring her back to her mom.”
The accused then broke his silence.
“She’s in heaven,” Saretzky tells them. “Her spirit’s floating around.”
Saretzky, 24, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the three Crowsnest Pass residents. He is also charged one count of indignity to a human body in relation to Hailey.