LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Relatives of a man charged in the slaying of a two-year-old toddler and her father in Blairmore, Alta., say he has been transported to hospital following an undisclosed incident Wednesday afternoon.

CTV Calgary reported the family of Derek Saretzky doesn’t know if his injuries are the result of an attack or a suicide attempt, while CBC quoted unnamed sources as saying it was a suicide attempt.

Michelle Davio of Alberta Justice confirmed an inmate was discovered “in medical distress” at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre and was transported to hospital, but woouldn’t confirm it was Saretzky.

Saretzky had been scheduled to appear via closed-circuit camera inside a Lethbridge courtroom Wednesday but instead the matter was quickly adjourned to Sept. 30.

Saretzky, 22, faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Terry Blanchette, 27, and Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette.

There is an additional charge of committing indignity to a body in the girl’s case.

No family members were present for the hearing, but Allie Pratchler, clutching a small brown teddy bear, was there in a show of support for the victims’ families, including the girl’s mother, Cheyenne Dunbar.

“It’s probably pretty rough for them right now,” said Pratchler.

Hailey’s body was found last week in a rural area near Blairmore, a day after her father was discovered dead in their home in the town of about 2,000.

An Amber Alert was issued across Western Canada and Montana after the man’s body was found and authorities undertook an extensive search with the hope of finding the youngster alive. News that her body had been found came during a candle-light vigil held to support those efforts. 

Blanchette and Dunbar, 20, were separated, but the two maintained a good relationship and both cared for Hailey.

Saretzky was known to both Blanchette and Dunbar.

Authorities have not disclosed why they believe the father and his daughter were killed.

The Crowsnest Pass Herald newspaper posted on its Facebook page a statement from the Blanchette and Dunbar families to Saretzky’s relatives. The Saretzky family is well-known in the area and owns a local cleaning business.

“We need to tell you that we do not condone the vile and malicious epithets being directed at you,” the statement said. “We find it abhorrent. It’s important that you know we bear you no ill will.”

Pratchler said she knew Saretzky.

“It was a surprise,” she said of the charges against him. “I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. He was a good person when I knew him.”

Saretzky has hired Edmonton lawyer Peter Northcott to represent him.

Members of the public who didn’t know the family but felt empathy for them also attended the court appearance. Purple ribbons also festooned parking meters outside the courthouse — a tribute to Hailey, whose favourite colour was purple.

“It’s horrible. I have small children who I care for. I have custody of three grandchildren and you look at these babies and you think, ‘Oh my gosh,'” said Tammie Hart-Ingertila of the group Urban Bikers Against Kids Abuse.

Blairmore is in the Crowsnest Pass, a hard-scrabble mining area rich in a history that is often rooted in tragedy. It’s just down the highway from Frank where, in 1903, the side of a mountain gave way burying between 70 and 90 people. Most of the bodies were never recovered.

Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter said grief counsellors will be brought in this week to give a presentation and to help those struggling with the killings.

“It’s devastating and tragic for the families and the community. Everybody knows everybody, everybody looks out for everybody, and to have this happen is just beyond belief,” he said.

“Unfortunately tragedy is not new to our community. We’ve had a lot of tragic events through the years … but we’re tight-knit and very supportive of each other.

“We will get through this — it’s just going to take some time.”

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter


Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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