Case study by Dan LeBaron, Devika Desai & Sade Lewis
On Sept 9, 2015, Derek Saretzky, 22, broke into the home of Hanne Meketech, 69, and killed her with a baseball bat and a knife. Five days later, he killed Terry Blanchette, 27, with a crowbar and kidnapped his two-year-old toddler, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, before taking her to a campsite that belonged to the Saretzky family. There, he strangled young Hailey and committed acts of cannibalism to her body.
An Amber Alert was issued to find the toddler. However, a day later she was pronounced dead after remnants of her body were found at the campsite in Crowsnest Pass, Alta. On Sept 16, 2015, Saretzky was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Blanchette and his daughter. On April 20, 2016, he was also charged with first-degree murder of Meketech.
Saretzky was convicted of all three counts of first-degree murder at the trial, which took place in June 2017.
CBC assigned crime reporter Meghan Grant and two others to cover the trial. Due to the brutal nature of the crimes, a wide range of graphic evidence was presented, including gory photographs, videos of Saretzky’s confession, and a re-enactment video in which he walked investigators through the brutal acts he committed at the campsite. Grant and her editors were aware of what kind of evidence would be shown in court because of the voir dire proceedings leading up to the trial.
“We knew that there was going to be really graphic evidence in terms of you know, the cannibalism and the re-enactment, the blood drinking,” Grant said. “It was a really good opportunity for a heads-up to consider those issues before they came up in court.”
The rare nature of the crime and the resulting evidence left CBC with a series of tough editorial decisions to make, including whether or not to use the re-enactment tape and which of the gory photos to publish, if any. Ultimately these decisions came down to one question: how much graphic evidence could the public handle?