Man charged with murder of Blairmore toddler and her father
A southern Alberta man is facing two charges of first-degree murder in the death of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and her father Terry.
An AMBER Alert was issued on Monday for the little girl in three provinces and Montana after she was reported missing from her Blairmore, Alberta home.
Her father, Terry Blanchette, 27, was found dead in the residence, by a family member and a search was launched for Hailey.
A 22-year-old man was arrested in Blairmore on Tuesday and was held in custody while he was questioned in the death of Terry and the abduction of Hailey.
On Tuesday night, RCMP confirmed that Hailey’s body was found in a rural area near Blairmore.
“Hailey’s body was found in a rural area near Blairmore yesterday afternoon. Information related to what we found will not be released in the interest of the investigation. Police were searching the location based on information received during the course of the missing person investigation into Hailey’s disappearance,” said RCMP Superintendent Tony Hamori, Assistant District Officer, Southern Alberta District.
On Wednesday, Derek James Saretzky, 22, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of indignity to a human body in connection to the deaths.
“Now that Mr. Saretzky has been charged, our first priority is to protect the integrity of the investigation to date and to ensure he receives a fair trial,” said Hamori.
Police say Saretzky and Terry Blanchette knew each other.
“We have determined that Mr. Saretzky was an acquaintance of Terry Blanchette’s,” said Superintendent Hamori.
Police say a white van that was reported near the scene of Hailey’s abduction on Monday was located.
“The white van that was on the original AMBER Alert is the van now that we believe we have and that we had seized on Tuesday,” said RCMP Cpl. Sharon Franks.
Investigators say they are conducting a number of searches in the Blairmore area for evidence.
“We have a number of searches that we’re conducting and some of that will be through a search warrant process, I won’t go into those specifics, but we are in the Blairmore area conducting a number of searches for evidence as part of the investigative process,” said RCMP Inspector Derek Williams.
Police have secured a large acreage on private property in a remote location in the hills north of Blairmore and the forensics unit is at the scene.
Hailey’s mother, Cheyenne Dunbar, 20, spoke to reporters after the charges were announced and says Hailey split her time between her and Terry.
“She was smart, beautiful, the greatest child ever. She never cried, she was perfect, absolutely perfect,” said Dunbar. “Terry was an awesome father. He did everything he could for that little girl.”
She says she knows the accused and that they used to be close friends.
“That was years ago, we were great friends. Like it tears me apart knowing friends would do something like that,” she said. ”We were just close friends and I haven’t talked to him in three years.”
"I never physically dated him, we were friends," said Dunbar.
Crowsnest Pass Mayor, Blair Painter, says the deaths have devastated the small community.
“This is just heart wrenching. I guess it’s some resolve that they have a suspect that has been charged,” said Painter. “Being a small town, anybody that’s lived here for a length of time, pretty much, knows everybody or knows of people so it has a dramatic effect on our community for sure. I can honestly say that I believe our community is totally heartbroken and we’ll stand behind the families a 100 percent.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help cover the funeral costs of Hailey and Terry.
RCMP officials say officers received an outpouring of support from across the country while investigating the case.
“The RCMP extends its deepest condolences to the Blanchette and Dunbar family with respect to Hailey and Terry’s loss, to all those who knew them and to the citizens of Blairmore,” said Hamori. “The RCMP also acknowledges the outpouring of public concern and support that we have received from across Canada and beyond which has buoyed this community and our investigators over the past few days.”
Saretzky will remain in custody and will appear in court on September 23, 2015 in Lethbridge.