ALBERTA

Derek Saretzky Charged In Slayings Of Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette And Her Father

09/17/2015 07:19 EDT | Updated 09/17/2016 05:12 EDT
Derek Saretzky has been accused of murdering a two-year-old girl and her father in southern Alberta.

The 22-year-old was arrested on Tuesday in Blairmore. Police believe Saretzky is behind the deaths of Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and Terry Blanchette.

Here's what we know about him so far.

He was friends with Hailey's mother

Hailey's mother Cheyenne Dunbar broke down in tears as she spoke to reporters from the town of Blairmore. Police had just announced they charged Saretzky in the investigation. 

Dunbar said she used to hang out in the same crowd as him, and that there was never any anger between friends in the group.

"When I knew him he was a great kid," she told reporters.

Dunbar says she is struggling to understand why her daughter was killed, and how a former friend could possibly be involved. She says she hadn't spoke to him for three years, and was never involved with him romantically. 

It's something that her father wanted to make clear to reporters today. Kevin Dunbar says he is angry about some media reports that say his daughter Cheyenne was involved with Saretzky.

"I'm angry about some of the things that are being splashed across the media about my daughter," he said.

He also said he moved his family away from Blairmore.

"It's terrible. All the kids out here are into drugs, and they're all into just being bad kids, and it was having an effect on my kids and we needed to move," he said.

RCMP say Saretzky and Blanchette also knew each other, but investigators did not elaborate about how. While neighbours have said the two men didn't get along, Cheyenne Dunbar said she didn't know they knew each other.

Lived in the Crowsnest Pass

Saretzky was reportedly working at a dry cleaning company called Prestige Cleaners owned by his grandfather, and has two older brothers.

RCMP say Saretzky lived in Blairmore, and came from a well-liked family in the Crowsnest Pass area.

"They are longtime residents of our community. It's a well-known family for sure," said Mayor Blair Painter.

He says it's tough in small town where everyone knows each other, and it has had a dramatic effect on the residents there.

"I believe our community is totally heartbroken," said Painter.

He says he reached out to Hailey's grandmother Terry-Lynn Dunbar to express his condolences. She posted a statement on Facebook Wednesday that said Hailey's parents "loved their little girl more than anything in the world."

Faces 3 charges

RCMP arrested Saretzky on Tuesday and he was formally charged Wednesday morning.

Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette's body was discovered on Tuesday afternoon in a rural area near Blairmore. Police had issued an Amber Alert for the young girl after discovering her father's body on Monday morning.

"Amber Alert works, and was critical to resolving this situation in Blairmore," said Supt. Tony Hamori.

A family member found 27-year-old Terry Blanchette at 11 a.m., and that's when police discovered his young daughter was missing.

Witnesses told RCMP that they saw a white van speeding away from the home that Blanchette shared with his father and daughter at 3:30 a.m. Police believe they have recovered the vehicle.

Information gathered during the investigation led officers to the area where the body was found, police said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

Past charges

RCMP is continuing the investigation, and plans to continue searching areas in Blairmore — some of which will have to go through a search warrant process.

Saretzky will remain in custody until making his first court appearance in Lethbridge next Wednesday.

He has no criminal record but was supposed to appear in court on Tuesday on one set of outstanding charges of breaking and entering and possession of property under $5,000 from an incident in August.

Court records also reveal Saretzky faced stolen property and theft charges in 2012 and 2013, matters that were dealt with by alternative measures.

'Trying to get his life together'

Lisa Sygutek, the publisher at the Crowsnest Pass Herald newspaper, said she knew Saretzky for years. He played hockey with her son, a team which was coached by Saretzky's dad.

"I've been hearing stories from family members, and the younger kids in our family, that have said that he was on a bit of a bad row lately and that he was doing some bad things," she said. 

"But I had personally never seen anything other than a very nice boy who talked to me, met with me in the post office, and discussed with me how he was trying to get his life together."

She said the tragedy seems unreal and hopes the community can come together to take care of both families as the town heals.

"So we've lost Terry, we've lost Hailey and now we've got two families that are never going to be the same," said Sygutek. "It's never going to be the same in this community again."

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