Amber Alert ends in tragedy

Image via CBC
Image via CBC

Alberta father and daughter found slain; suspect in custody

By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor

On September 14, mid-day, an Amber Alert was issued in Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, and Montana after Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2, was discovered missing from her father’s home in southwestern Alberta.

RCMP arrived at Terry Blanchette’s residence that day at 11 a.m. after a family member called them after arriving at the residence. The body of Blanchette, 27, was discovered on scene, but his daughter was absent. After receiving statements from neighbours and family, the RCMP found out that a white van had sped away from the property at 3:30 a.m. that morning.

Later that day, Derek Saretzky, 22, was detained by police for questioning.

The Amber Alert stayed in place for 32 hours while the RCMP continued their search, until it ceased at 9 p.m. on September 15. At 10 p.m. the same night, the RCMP announced in a press conference that they had discovered the remains of Dunbar-Blanchette.

Saretzky was arrested the following morning on two charges of first-degree murder, as well as one count of indignity to a body. The accused had had previous altercations with authorities before, the most recent being a breaking-and-entering charge in August. In 2012 and 2013, Saretzky had been charged with theft and stolen property charges.

Shortly after Saretzky’s arrest, Cheyenne Dunbar, Dunbar-Blanchette’s mother, spoke to the media.

“She was my baby; I don’t know why anybody would do this to her,” Dunbar woefully told CBC. “I’m going to miss absolutely everything. I’m going to miss her smile, the way she ran around saying ‘Mommy’—everything.”

Dunbar and Blanchette were separated, but shared custody of their daughter on a bi-weekly basis. Dunbar was preparing for her daughter’s arrival when she heard that her daughter was missing via Facebook. Dunbar described her relationship with Blanchette as a civil one, where they both maintained good contact and shared photos of their daughter with each other.

“Terry was an awesome father,” she said to CBC. “He did everything he could for that little girl.”

Dunbar had previously been friends with Saretzky, the accused, although she says that they haven’t talked to each other in three years. Dunbar maintains that her relationship to Saretzky was never romantic, but strictly platonic. Saretzky was also acquainted with Blanchette.

Canadians held vigils across the country in tribute of Dunbar-Blanchette and her father, and a Facebook group, “In Memory of Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette,” emerged to allow Canadians to plan vigils and show their support for the families of the deceased. A public memorial was held for the father and daughter in Calgary on September 19.