LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — An Alberta man who butchered a father, his two-year-old daughter and a woman will be approaching his 100th birthday before he is eligible to apply for parole after being sentenced to life in prison.
Derek Saretzky, 24, was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in June for the 2015 deaths of Terry Blanchette, Blanchette's daughter Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and 69-year-old Hanne Meketech.
A conviction of first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
But Justice William Tilleman was asked by the Crown to make the periods of parole ineligibility consecutive, meaning Saretzky couldn't apply for freedom for 75 years.
Tilleman agreed with the request noting that means the Saretzky will likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
Saretzky was also sentenced to five years for causing an indignity to the little girl's body, which is to be served concurrently.
"I'm satisfied he is dangerous,'' Tilleman told a Lethbridge court Wednesday.
Tilleman said each murder was a separate and deliberate event causing heartbreak for the Crowsnest Pass community, where the killings happened.
I'm satisfied he is dangerous.Justice William Tilleman
The judge noted five days passed between Meketech's killing and the murders of Blanchette and his daughter.
"As he carried out these three murders, Mr. Saretzky gained momentum,'' the judge said, adding Saretzky would have been surrounded by the grief and terror of his community.
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During the trial, 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 taken from her crib to a campsite, which was partially owned by Saretzky's family, where 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.
Blanchette's body was found by his father and authorities launched a massive search for Hailey, but it was called off after Saretzky confessed to police.
Six months later he confessed to the murder of Meketech.
Saretzky knew all three victims and Hailey's mother testified that she, Blanchette and Saretzky even hung out together for a brief period of time. But no real motive for the killings emerged during the trial. Saretzky told police the devil taunted him "to do all kinds of stupid stuff,'' but he was found mentally fit to face the charges.
Members of the Saretzky family and most of the Blanchette family declined to speak to reporters following the sentencing.
"It's the best we could have hoped for,'' was all Terry Blanchette's father, Bill, would say.
Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou said it's time for the community "put themselves back together again.''
"What options do we have other than to move forward? This community came together to address a horrendous act,'' she said outside court.
"It has restored my faith in both justice and the community in how they dealt with possibly one of the worst cases that this province has ever seen.''
Saretzky's lawyer said the sentence wasn't a surprise but it's too soon to discuss whether the decision will be appealed. Patrick Edgerton said his client is still processing what happened.
Saretzky 'didn't have a great deal to say'
"He didn't have a great deal to say about it. He has some reflection to deal with over the next few days,'' Edgerton said. "It's never a pleasant experience to send someone to a penitentiary and to do so for the rest of their life is difficult.''
Saretzky showed no remorse for his actions which were "simply abominable'' and caused "grave injury to his entire community,'' Tilleman said.
The judge said he hoped Saretzky gains some insight and an understanding of the value of human life.
"A sentence of jail is not a sentence of vengeance,'' Tilleman said. "There is next to no chance he will ever be free. This chapter is closed.''
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