By Lethbridge Herald on June 19, 2017.
Warning: graphic and disturbing details
Derek Saretzky’s aunt testified on Monday that her nephew had been to the family ranch — where Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette’s remains were found — before, conflicting with his recorded statement to police that he hadn’t been there until “that day.”
Day nine of the triple murder trial also had an abrupt jury-requested break during graphic testimony by medical examiner Dr. Tera Jones. She told a Lethbridge courtroom her autopsy report on Terry Blanchette identified 42 injuries: 30 “blunt force” and 12 “sharp force.”
Note: Story contains very graphic content, possibly disturbing to some readers.
Saretzky is on trial for the 2015 Blairmore murders of Blanchette, his daughter, two-year-old Dunbar-Blanchette, and the Coleman murder of 69-year-old woman Hanne Meketech. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Saretzky’s aunt Carmellia, who is married to Kevin, the brother of Derek’s father, Larry, told reporters outside of the courthouse after her testimony that at first she didn’t think Derek was involved.
“Your mind is numb, you’re thinking ‘no, it can’t be real,’” she said. “Our heart goes out to those families of Terry’s, Hailey’s and Hanne’s. It’s hard for all of us.”
During her testimony, Carmellia Saretzky told the court she has a role at the Catholic Church in Blairmore. On Sept. 8, 2015, she said she saw Derek at church for the first time since he was confirmed years earlier.
“I told him I was happy to see him in church,” Carmellia said, adding she then invited him to her house for dinner that evening.
While at her house, where he stayed for supper and watched some TV, Carmellia said Derek “was not himself” and didn’t talk much or laugh like he normally does.
“He was shaking,” she said. He said “he had done something bad, real bad.” When she asked if it was bad enough to call police, he said no. When she asked if it was bad enough to send him to jail, he said no, “unless they catch me or find me.”
He wouldn’t say what he did.
The witness then talked about the family ranch near Blairmore, to which she and Derek went to on Sept. 9 after attending morning mass. While at the ranch, where there is a fire pit near some RVs, she took some pictures while Saretzky wandered around.
Carmellia told court he showed particular interest in a huge scrap log pile used to make campfires, and he asked how often her family members used the ranch. She said mostly just on the weekends, unless someone was on holidays.
After about 20 minutes at the ranch, she dropped him off at his apartment and he had a “lost look.” He wouldn’t say what was wrong.
Earlier Monday, Dr. Jones testified on autopsy results for Blanchette and Dunbar-Blanchette. His was conducted Sept. 15, 2015, and hers on Sept. 18, 2015.
On Blanchette, she found multiple abrasions on his chest, back, legs and arms, and multiple hemorrhages to his brain. Based on tissue reaction, Dr. Jones said Blanchette’s heart was still pumping at the time of a 25-centimetre “gaping wound” occurred to his neck.
At the point of this part of her testimony, court was called to an abrupt break for the jury.
Earlier, Dr. Jones described putting Dunbar-Blanchette’s remains into an anatomical position. She said the remains were burned, thus “delicate and brittle.” She noted linear tool marks on the bones and incised wounds in several places.
“I couldn’t tell you what the actual cause of death was,” Dr. Jones said. “It wasn’t in keeping with a natural death.”
Photos of the bones and remains were not shown in court. The jury had a booklet of them, but the judge said they did not have to look at them.
The murder trial continues Tuesday with four more RCMP officers scheduled to testify. The Crown also said Monday they are “moving quickly” and they may wrap their end of the case on Wednesday.
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