If the Crown gets its way, triple murderer Derek Saretzky will be 99 years old before he can even ask for parole. But Saretzky’s lawyer says parole ineligibility for 75 years would be a “crushing” and “unduly long and harsh” sentence that wouldn’t motivate his client to be a model inmate.
Instead, defence lawyer Patrick Edgerton has asked the judge to allow Saretzky — who murdered a toddler, her father and an elderly woman — to apply for release in 25 years.
The 24-year-old is set to learn his fate today in Lethbridge, Alta., after a jury found him guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in June for the slayings of Terry Blanchette, 27, his daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2, and Hanne Meketech, 69.
Saretzky automatically gets a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years, but prosecutors Photini Papadatou and Michael Fox asked Court of Queen’s Bench Justice William Tilleman to sentence him to consecutive parole ineligibility periods, meaning it would be 75 years before the killer could ask to be freed.
Although Fox made his sentencing arguments the day after the verdict, Edgerton told the court “legal issues” arose during the Crown’s submissions, and he was allowed to submit his arguments in writing weeks later.
“Giving an inmate the possibility of living to their parole eligibility date is important,” wrote Edgerton in his argument. “It will also promote the safety of other inmates and prison personnel.”
Saretzky re-enacted killing
The jury deliberated for three hours after hearing nearly three weeks of testimony in June. Some of the key evidence was in videos where Saretzky not only confessed to all three killings, he also re-enacted the toddler’s murder.
Meketech was a former neighbour of Saretzky’s. On Sept. 9, 2015, Saretzky said, he broke into her home after dark, and attacked her with a baseball bat and knife. The senior’s body was found on her bedroom floor.
Five days later, Saretzky told police, he broke into Blanchette’s home, killed him with a crowbar and a knife and took the sleeping child from her crib. He then drove her to a rural property owned by some of his family members.
Saretzky said he strangled the girl before he performed acts of cannibalism and burned her remains. For that, he was also convicted on a charge of indignity to a body.
In the firepit ashes, police recovered hundreds of bone and tooth fragments belonging to a child. Hailey’s blood was also found on a toy and in a metal pot nearby and on a pair of boots seized from Saretzky’s apartment.
As for a motive, Saretzky told police he had feelings for Cheyenne Dunbar, Hailey’s mother and Blanchette’s ex-girlfriend. He said that the night he broke into Blanchette’s home, he didn’t know Dunbar was no longer living there with her daughter.
Family members of the father and daughter described Saretzky in their victim impact statements as a “beast” whose actions will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
When police asked Saretzky if he had killed Meketech as practice ahead of the slayings of the father and daughter, he confirmed he had. He also said he didn’t think anyone would miss Meketech.
Throughout the trial, several of her friends showed up at the Lethbridge courthouse.
‘Sentencing is an art’
Consecutive parole ineligibilities are relatively new to Canadian law.
Since the Conservative government brought in the legislation, three triple murderers have been sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 75 years, including Douglas Garland in Calgary earlier this year, New Brunswick Mountie killer Justin Bourque and Winnipeg serial killer John Paul Ostamas in 2016.
But Edgerton has asked the judge to consider his client’s age and the fact that he has no criminal record.
“Sentencing is an art, not a science … the correct approach is not a comparison-driven process.”