Cheyenne Dunbar, left, leaves the trial of Derek Saretzky, charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Terry Blanchette, his two-year-old daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and Hanne Meketech, in Lethbridge, Wednesday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Former friend: Mother of dead Alberta girl faces accused killer in court

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The mother of a dead two-year-old girl sat trembling in the witness box Wednesday as she faced her daughter’s accused killer in court.

Cheyenne Dunbar testified at the trial of Derek Saretzky, who is charged with first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, Hailey’s father Terry Blanchette, who was 27, and 60-year-old Hanne Meketech.

Court heard that Saretzky, 24, told investigators he had dated Dunbar, but Dunbar testified the two had not been involved romantically.

“Friends,” was all she said when asked by the Crown about the nature of her past relationship with the accused.

Dunbar said she met Saretzky when Hailey was three months old and they spent time together for about five months “a few times a week.”

With her voice barely above a whisper, she said they would hang out at Saretzky’s mother’s house or Blanchette’s house in Blairmore, Alta.

“When you were hanging out with Mr. Saretzky would Hailey be present?” asked Crown prosecutor Mike Fox.

“A couple of times, yes,” Dunbar replied.

The testimony lasted about six minutes.

Dunbar identified Saretzky for the jury and broke down in tears as she left the courtroom.

The jury has already heard that Saretzky confessed to slitting Blanchette’s throat and later strangling, dismembering and cannibalizing Hailey before burning her remains.

Earlier in the day, RCMP DNA expert Janice Lyons testified that she examined several blood samples relating to the deaths of Hailey and her father.

Lyons said blood on one of Saretzky’s boots was found to be Hailey’s, but no DNA could be retrieved from the firepit where the girl’s remains were found.

“DNA being exposed to extremely high temperatures for a prolonged period of time would degrade the DNA to the point that we would not be able to detect it,” said Lyons.

DNA from Blanchette was found at both his home and in a white van owned by the Saretzky family, she said.

RCMP Cpl. Brian Fitzpatrick was the lead investigator in the Meketech case. Meketech was killed in nearby Coleman, Alta., five days before Blanchette was killed and Hailey was kidnapped.

He testified that after an Amber Alert was issued for Hailey, the Meketech investigation came to a stop and he went to Blairmore.

“The first few hours there were quite chaotic,” Fitzpatrick said.

Saretzky became a suspect in the senior’s death when he confessed that he killed the father and daughter and officers noticed similarities in the way Blanchette and Meketech were killed.

He eventually confessed to the third murder in an RCMP interview six months later.

Fitzpatrick said he initially asked that a sexual assault kit be used on Meketech.

“It didn’t make any sense to me why this woman was murdered,” he said. “I wanted to try to obtain as much evidence as possible because I didn’t know why this had happened.”

Another test was done on her fingernails to look for DNA evidence.

“We started to realize she had a bit of a fiery personality,” he said.

“There were some defensive wounds on her hands so that leads me to believe … Hanne wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I think she came out swinging.”

Both tests came back negative.

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