Crowsnest Pass RCMP has charged a 22-year-old man in the murders of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and her father, 27-year-old Terry Blanchette.
Derek James Saretzky of Blairmore, Alta. is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of indignity to a human body in relation to Hailey’s death.
At a press conference in Blairmore on Sept. 16, RCMP Supt. Tony Hamori said Saretzky has been in police custody since Sept. 14 when he was arrested in Blairmore as a suspect in the death of Hailey and her father. The accused will remain in custody until his first court appearance on Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Lethbridge Provincial Court.
Hamori said the RCMP has determined Saretzky and Blanchette were acquaintances but said he couldn’t elaborate on that detail.
“Now that Mr. Saretzky has been charged, our first priority is protecting the integrity of the investigation to date and to ensure he receives a fair trial. For this reason, the RCMP has limited ability to discuss any of the details but we will try to tell you what we can.”
Blanchette was found dead in his residence at 11:15 a.m. on Sept. 14, and an Amber Alert was issued shortly thereafter for his missing daughter.
Hailey’s body was found in a rural area near Blairmore on Tuesday afternoon during a police search based on information received in their efforts to locate her.
“Information related to what we found will not be released in the interest of the investigation,” Hamori said. “The scene has been secured and will be released upon completion of the investigative work now underway at that location.”
The exact location could not be discussed at the time of the press conference, as search of the area is ongoing.
Hamori said with respect to the white van involved in the investigation, it was located and was determined to be the vehicle that was reportedly seen near the Blanchette home in the early morning hours of Sept. 14.
The superintendent said the Amber Alert program was “critical to resolving this situation in Blairmore”, adding the program is a “critical tool when it’s established a missing child might be vulnerable to harm”. In the case of Hailey, Hamori said it took RCMP only three hours to establish that to be the case with Hailey.
“In that three hours, significant steps were underway to find Hailey and rule out other scenarios. This is required in order for us to protect the Amber Alert criteria, which is based on sound investigative principles.”
The Amber Alert was issued in Alberta two hours before being issued in neighbouring jurisdictions of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Montana, he said.
“There was no undue delay in notifying the public whose trust in the Amber Alert system is critical to its effectiveness in helping us find missing children.”
Anyone with information that might assist in this investigation is still asked to call the tip line of the Crowsnest Pass RCMP detachment at 403-562-2866. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers with information at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).