Thief tells manslaughter trial he broke into van, stole wallet on night Balaquit went missing
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/04/2022 (344 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hours after Eduardo Balaquit was last seen alive, Lesley Walker was attempting to use one of the dead man’s credit cards at several inner-city convenience stores, a Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench jury heard Tuesday.
Walker told jurors he and another man were looking for scrap metal to steal and resell the night of June 4, 2018, when they opened an unlocked van outside City Wide Water Heater Service on Keewatin Street and grabbed several lengths of copper pipe and brass fittings.
A short time later in the same area, they came across a van that jurors have heard belonged to Balaquit.
Walker said he broke the front passenger-door window and grabbed a wallet with a driver’s licence and credit cards.
Walker said he tried to make a purchase at a William Avenue 7-Eleven store and another store early the next morning using one of the credit cards but the tap feature didn’t work.
Later that afternoon, Walker attempted to use the card in a bank machine at an Arlington Street 7-Eleven, using Balaquit’s birth date from his driver’s licence as a possible PIN, but again was unsuccessful.
Walker’s image was captured on store security video and police quickly identified him in the media as a “person of interest.”
Walker said when he learned police were looking for him he threw away the credit cards and ID.
Balaquit, 59, disappeared June 4, 2018, after leaving home for Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street, where he had a long-standing contract as a cleaner. His body has never been found.
Kyle Pietz, a former employee at Westcon, is on trial for manslaughter. Prosecutors allege Pietz killed Balaquit during the course of a robbery.
When questioned by police a month later, Walker initially claimed he found Balaquit’s wallet and identification under a bridge.
During a marathon interrogation, police officers “insisted” Walker successfully withdrew $40 from the Arlington Street 7-Eleven ATM, defence lawyer Amanda Sansregret said.
“But you didn’t get it,” Sansregret said.
“Yeah,” Walker replied.
Walker later pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a credit card and as part of his sentence was ordered to pay $40 restitution.
Jurors heard shortly after midnight, June 5, hours after Balaquit was reported missing, someone used another of his credit cards to withdraw $700 over three transactions from the same Ellice Avenue 7-Eleven bank machine. A fourth attempt to withdraw money from the machine was declined because the daily limit had been reached for the card. A fifth attempt to withdraw cash using a different card was declined because the card was designated for U.S. funds.
In earlier testimony, jurors heard police investigating an April 2018 break-and-enter at Westcon found Pietz’s fingerprint on a brochure prosecutors believe the thief used to prevent a front door from latching shut.
Pietz was quickly identified as a suspect in Balaquit’s disappearance and was placed under surveillance, Winnipeg Police Service Sgt. Matthew Freeman testified.
Freeman said an analysis of Pietz’s cellphone data showed his phone was in the Arborg area around the time Balaquit was reported missing.
A subsequent ground search in the area uncovered “nothing relevant to this investigation, unfortunately,” Freeman said.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.