LETHBRIDGE — Family members of a slain two-year-old girl and her father were in court for the first time Friday to witness the appearance of the man accused in the crimes.
Derek Saretzky appeared briefly via closed-circuit television from the Calgary Remand Centre. He is charged with first-degree murder in the September deaths of Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and Terry Blanchette.
Saretzky, 23, is also charged with committing an indignity to the little girl’s body.
Hailey’s maternal grandmother, Terry-Lynn Dunbar, was one of the relatives at the Lethbridge courthouse, but declined comment.
A victims services member, who accompanied the family, said she was helping them navigate the court system.
Dunbar posted a statement in September after the bodies were found.
“As a mother and (formerly) grandmother my pain is unimaginable at the loss of my only grandchild in such a horrific manner,” she wrote.
“The Dunbar and Blanchette families will be forever broken.”
After a lengthy psychological assessment, Saretzky has been found fit to stand trial. A preliminary hearing, which is to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial, is scheduled for 10 days starting June 20.
He was arrested after Blanchette’s body was found in his Blairmore, home in the Crowsnest Pass of southwestern Alberta on Sept. 14. Authorities couldn’t find Hailey and issued an Amber Alert that stretched across Western Canada and into the United States.
Her body was found a day later in a rural area near Blairmore.
News of the girl’s death broke during a candlelight vigil where residents of the tight-knit town had gathered to pray for her safe return.
Police have said Saretzky and Blanchette were acquaintances, but have not elaborated on how the two men knew each other.
The little girl’s mother, Cheyenne Dunbar, has described Saretzky as an old friend to whom she hadn’t spoken in years.
Saretzky’s family is well known in the blue-collar mountain town as owners of a dry-cleaning business.