The loss of her child has torn her life apart, Cheyenne Dunbar told a courtroom Thursday, during Derek Saretzky’s triple-murder sentencing hearing.
It took a Lethbridge, Alta, jury less than three hours on Wednesday to find the 24-year old guilty in the 2015 deaths of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar, her father Terry Blanchette, 27, and 69-year-old Hanne Meketech, in the community of Crowsnest Pass, Alta.
He was also found guilty of performing an indignity to Hailey’s body.
In Dunbar’s victim impact statement, read by Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou, she said she struggles with anxiety and depression.
“She was my world and my everything to me,” Dunbar wrote. “They say time heals all wounds, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t.”
“Being a mother was a blessing that was stolen from me.”
A number of other family members of the three victims made statements.
Saretzky will receive an automatic life sentence. It has yet to be determined whether he will be eligible for parole in 25, 50 or 75 years.
Crown prosecutor Michael Fox said Saretzky should not be allowed to apply for parole for 75 years, based on the brutal nature of the crimes and the recommendations of the jury.
“(Hailey) was the ultimate target,” he said. “We have moral culpability at the highest level. We have acts that show a level of callousness and disregard for human life, which defies comparison to any other case that I’ve been able to find.”
“The victims here were mere pawns of Mr. Saretzky’s thrill seeking, I don’t know how else to describe it, and his unspeakable violence,” he said.
Citing confessions to RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike McCauley, where Saretzky said the killing of the senior citizen was a rehearsal for the slaying of the toddler and her father, Fox urged the court to impose the maximum punishment.
“He was describing what he did,” said Fox. “There was planning, there was practice.”
Meketech was found deceased in her home in Coleman on Sept. 9, 2015.
Blanchette was found dead in his home on Sept. 14 that year. The RCMP issued an Amber Alert for Hailey that spanned three provinces and the U.S. state of Montana.
Her remains were discovered the next day in a rural part of the Crowsnest Pass community of Blairmore.
In a video-recorded confession, Saretzky led police to Hailey’s remains where he described starting a fire with books and bits of wood before strangling the little girl and burning her body.
“So you choked her here,” asks McCauley.
“Yeah,” replies Saretzky.
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.
Defence lawyer Patrick Edgerton said he would submit his arguments in July. Saretzky will be sentenced on Aug. 9.