Widow cries out as jury finds man guilty in Balaquit’s death
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/05/2022 (219 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A jury has convicted Kyle Pietz of manslaughter in the death of office cleaner Eduardo Balaquit, accepting the Crown’s theory he killed Balaquit after forcing him to disclose his bank card numbers.
Seated with her sons and other family members, Balaquit’s wife Illuminada clutched a wooden crucifix and cried out as the verdict was announced.
Jurors delivered their verdict just before 8 p.m. Wednesday following six hours of deliberations.
Pietz showed no visible reaction.
Justice Sadie Bond revoked Pietz’s bail. He will be sentenced at a later date. Prosecutor Vanessa Gama said the Crown will seek a life sentence.
Eduardo Balaquit, 59, disappeared on June 4, 2018, after leaving home for Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street, where he had a contract as a cleaner. His body has never been found.
Prosecutors alleged Pietz, a former Westcon employee, was desperate for cash and killed Balaquit for his bank cards and numbers after the two men crossed paths at Westcon.
Family members anxiously awaited the verdict, hoping jurors saw the evidence the same way they did, said Balaquit’s son Edward Balaquit outside court.
“You never know what’s going on in a jury’s mind,” he said. “To us it seemed pretty evident, but we’re pretty biased.”
Eduardo Balaquit was a proud, confident man who enjoyed providing for his family, Edward said.
“It’s good the person responsible… is finally found guilty,” he said. “Through this whole process we were hoping the evidence would show us where our dad is or this person would finally tell us where he is. He didn’t give us that information we needed. That is the piece we really want to know.”
“Every once in a while the good guys win,” Winnipeg Police Service Sgt. Wade McDonald said following the verdict. “I’m happy that the Balaquit family got justice today.”
Not knowing the location of Balaquit’s remains made the investigation “very challenging,” McDonald said.
“Thank god investigators were really motivated and determined,” he said. “We didn’t always get the results we wanted, we continued on for a number of years and charges were laid.”
With Balaquit’s killer now convicted, police will return their focus to finding where his body was buried, McDonald said.
“We wont be giving up. We will always be looking and asking for information for the Balaquits,” he said.
Jurors heard testimony from three witnesses who said they saw Pietz’s blue Ford Escape and Balaquit’s Dodge Caravan in the Westcon parking lot at the same time on the night Balaquit disappeared.
Cell tower records for that evening tracked Pietz’s cellphone from Westcon to a nearby Safeway and Liquor Mart, back to Pietz’s Toronto Street home and then to the Arborg area — all the while with Balaquit’s body in the trunk of Pietz’s car, prosecutor Brent Davidson alleged in a closing address to jurors Tuesday.
An intensive ground search in the Arborg area failed to uncover Balaquit’s body.
Jurors were shown security video of a man prosecutors alleged was Pietz using Balaquit’s bank card to withdraw $700 from an ATM at an Ellice Avenue 7-Eleven store, shortly after midnight June 5, 2018.
During a subsequent search of Pietz’s home, city police found a sticky note stuck to the bottom of a 7-Eleven food bag in the fridge — on which was written two sets of numbers and the names of two banks. It wasn’t until January that Balaquit’s wife confirmed they were her husband’s bank numbers.
Prosecutors argued Pietz’s presence at Westcon at the same time as Balaquit, his possession of his bank card numbers and his nighttime trip to Arborg and 7-Eleven should leave jurors no doubt Pietz killed Balaquit.
“There is no doubt that the only reasonable explanation for (Balaquit’s) disappearance is that he is dead and there is no doubt that Kyle Pietz is responsible for his death,” Davidson said.
Defence lawyer Amanda Sansregret argued it was unclear if Pietz was the man depicted in the 7-Eleven video. She said jurors could not rule out the possibility Pietz “came across” Balaquit’s wallet, bank cards and PIN numbers in the missing man’s car.
“That is evidence of theft, not of the criminal offence of manslaughter.
“If you find he used the card, might you be suspicious of Mr. Pietz? Of course… but suspicion is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There are other inferences available to you in this case.”
Court was told someone drove Balaquit’s vehicle to a neighbouring parking lot on the night he disappeared, where two men broke into the van and stole a wallet and credit cards.
One of the men, Leslie Walker, testified he tried to use the cards at two convenience stores, but was unsuccessful.
Sansregret said no one saw Pietz and Balaquit together at Westcon and there is no way of knowing if someone else was there on the evening in question.
Police found no blood, DNA or other evidence of a killing at the Winnipeg business, Sansregret 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.
Updated on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 9:48 PM CDT: Adds photo