Alberta Appeal Court hears man convicted in three murders wants one overturned

Alberta Appeal Court hears man convicted in three murders wants one overturned

CALGARY — An Alberta man who was found guilty of killing a father, the victim’s two-year-old daughter and a senior wants one of his convictions thrown out.

Derek Saretzky’s lawyer argued in an Appeal Court in Calgary that his client’s first-degree murder conviction in the death of Hanne Meketech should be overturned.

Balfour Der said Saretzky never should have been convicted in the 69-year-old woman’s death, because his rights were breached when police improperly took his confession.

Saretzky was also convicted of first-degree murder in the slayings of Terry Blanchette and Blanchette’s two-year-old daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette.

The murders in 2015 happened in two small Crowsnest Pass communities in southwestern Alberta.

Saretzky is serving life sentences outside the province and was not in court for the appeal.

“It was a confession taken without telling him about his right to speak to a lawyer,” Der said Monday outside court. “He should have been told about (that) prior to getting that confession.”

Crown prosecutor Christine Rideout argued that at the time of the police interview, Saretzky would have been well aware of his right to counsel. She said he had received those instructions numerous times on previous occasions.

The Appeal Court reserved its decision.

Der told the three-judge appeal panel that there were significant changes in his client’s health and behaviour after he was arrested, including a suicide attempt.

Saretzky confessed to Meketech’s murder six months after he admitted that he had killed Blanchette, 27, and the little girl.

He was convicted by a jury in Lethbridge, Alta., in 2017. The judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years.

Meketech was killed in her home in September 2015. During the trial, the jury was shown videotaped confessions in which Saretzky told police it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to kill Meketech — who knew his grandparents — because he didn’t think anyone cared about her.

Five days later, Blanchette’s body was discovered in his home. His daughter was missing, which sparked an Amber Alert and a extensive search.

The trial heard that Saretzky snatched Hailey from her crib and took her to a campsite, partially owned by his family, where he choked her with a shoelace. Jurors were told he drank her blood, ate a piece of her heart and burned her body in a fire pit.

Police quickly identified Saretzky as a suspect. A van, which matched vehicles used by his family’s cleaning company, was seen at Blanchette’s home.

Saretzky told police he was guided by the devil.

He initially appealed all three murder convictions, but the other two appeals have been abandoned.

“There has to be some solid legal grounds to work from. There were not for those other cases, primarily because he had confessed to family members,” Der said.

An appeal of the three consecutive life sentences is still outstanding, pending the outcome of this hearing, Der said.

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