LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A southern Alberta man who told police the devil led him to kill a father, a toddler and a senior has been found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder.
Derek Saretzky, 24, was charged in the September 2015 deaths of Terry Blanchette, his two-year-old daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and 69-year-old Hanne Meketech.
The jury recommended he not be eligible for parole for 75 years.
Saretzky showed little emotion as the jury gave its verdict. Friends of Meketech wept in the back of the courtroom.
It took the jury about three hours to reach their decision. The convictions carry an automatic life sentence.
The killings occurred in the small close-knit region known as the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta, where both Saretzky and his victims lived.
The court heard videotaped confessions from Saretzky who told police he killed Meketech — a friend of his grandparents — on the spur of the moment and because he didn't think anybody cared about her.
Five days later, Blanchette was beaten before his throat was cut in the home where he lived with Hailey. The little girl was plucked from her crib and spirited away from the bloody crime scene.
Blanchette's body was found by his father and authorities launched a massive search for Hailey.
But it was all for naught.
CAUTION: GRAPHIC CONTENT THAT FOLLOWS MAY DISTURB SOME READERS
Saretzky told police he took the toddler from the house to a campsite, which was partially owned by his family.
Once there, he choked her to death with a shoelace. He said "a little prayer'' over the girl before he drank her blood, ate part of her heart and burned her body in a firepit.
It wasn't long before police identified Saretzky as a suspect. A van matching those used by his family's cleaning company was spotted at the Blanchette crime scene.
Saretzky was brought in for questioning and, before long, confessed.
One juror sobbed as a video was shown of Saretzky walking police through his crimes at the campsite where he killed the girl.
You think I'd have a chance if I pled insanity?Derek Saretzky
Police found only bones in the firepit and a yellow child's toy belonging to Hailey on the ground nearby.
Similarities to the death of Blanchette linked Saretsky to Meketech's murder. Saretzky confessed to that crime six months later.
No real motive emerged during the trial.
Saretzky knew all three victims. Hailey's mother testified that she, Blanchette and Saretzky even hung out together for a brief period of time.
Saretzky's confession to police contained references to both God and the devil.
He told police the devil had made him do bad things.
"Just kind of taunting me to do all kinds of stupid stuff,'' he said.
"You think I'd have a chance if I pled insanity?'' he later asked.
Two psychiatric assessments were done on Saretzky and both concluded he didn't have grounds to plead not criminally responsible.
Sentencing arguments and victims impact statements will be heard by the judge on Friday before the actual sentence is handed down.
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