File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Victims Terry Blanchette and his daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette are shown in this photo from Blanchette’s Facebook page.

Murder victim was friends with suspect’s grandparents

LETHBRIDGE — The grandfather of a man accused of killing three people in southern Alberta says one of the victims was a close and longtime family friend.

Terry Megli says his grandson, Derek Saretzky, had known Hanne Meketech for 25 years. The 69-year-old woman was killed in her mobile home in Coleman, Alta., in September 2015.

Saretzky, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in Meketech’s death, as well as in the deaths of Terry Blanchette and his two-year-old daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette.

“She was a very nice lady,” Megli testified Friday at Saretzky’s trial. “She was an animal lover totally. She was a good friend. She had a really big heart. She was there if you needed her.”

Megli said Meketech was often invited for Christmas, Thanksgiving and family birthdays, and “we had birthday parties for her.”

Megli told court that his wife, Judy, was initially the executor of Meketech’s will.

He said his daughter and Saretzky had briefly lived across the street from Meketech, and Saretzky had been at her trailer a number of times a few years before her death.

“There’s times that he would help people out and I know that he was at her house to mow lawns and stuff and be her yard helper.”

Megli said Saretzky contacted him September 2015, wanting to come and visit.

“He was quite insistent he wanted to come and see us.”

“Were you available to see him?” asked Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou.

“Not emotionally. He was having trouble with alcohol and with drugs and I didn’t want that in my house,” Megli replied.

Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that Meketech had been involved in a messy divorce.

“I know she didn’t like him,” he said.

Defence lawyer Patrick Edgerton also asked about an inheritance Meketech had received of about $90,000 and whether she kept it at home.

“She didn’t trust the banks,” Megli said.

Megli was also asked about a fight that Meketech had with another woman.

“They were always fighting. Two old hags getting on each others’ nerves,” he said.

Dwight LaRose and his sister Lisa Markowski remembered Meketech as an animal lover who visited their mother’s restaurant every day. Both witnesses described her as “happy-go-lucky” and said everybody noticed when she didn’t show up on Sept. 9, 2015.

Court has already heard that Saretzky confessed to police that he killed Meketech, Blanchette and Hailey.

The Crown has said Saretzky had inside knowledge of the deaths and provided details to police that only the killer would know. The prosecution also said Saretzky took officers to a remote area where the girl’s remains were found in a campsite firepit, along with a hatchet and a metal pot.

Saretzky has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, as well as to a charge of committing an indignity to the girl’s body.

No motive has yet been suggested in any of the deaths.

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 has described Saretzky as an old friend whom she hadn’t spoken to in years.

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