Killer denied Balaquit family ‘basic dignity of closure,’ judge says, handing down 16-year sentence
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A judge sentenced Kyle Pietz to 16 years in prison for killing office cleaner Eduardo Balaquit Monday, as family of the slain man continued to yearn for the day they can properly lay him to rest.
Last May, a jury convicted Pietz, 37, of manslaughter in the 2018 killing. Balaquit’s body has never been found.
“Whatever time is given, it’s never going to be enough,” Balaquit’s son Edward said outside court, surrounded by family members, friends and supporters.
Pietz denied killing Balaquit, and the whereabouts of his remains are unknown.
Pietz “hurt us in more ways than most people know,” Edward said. “If he wants to prove that he is actually a good guy, I hope he does (confirm where Balaquit’s remains are).
“Everyone should be able to say goodbye,” he said. “It would mean the world to us.”
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.
Jurors heard evidence Pietz, a former Westcon employee, was desperate for cash and killed Balaquit for his bank cards and PIN numbers after the two men crossed paths at Westcon.
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. Surveillance video showed Pietz’s vehicle circling the Westcon building prior to Balaquit’s arrival.
Pietz wore a Westcon shirt that night “so that Mr. Balaquit would be more trusting of him and allow him into the building,” Manitoba Court of King’s Bench Justice Sadie Bond said during sentencing Monday.
“This was not an impulsive act,” she said. “Mr. Pietz prepared himself and waited for his victim.”
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, prosecutors alleged at trial.
An intensive ground search in the Arborg area failed to uncover Balaquit’s body.
“The only reasonable inference that may be drawn from all of the evidence is that Mr. Pietz disposed of Mr. Balaquit’s body somewhere north of the city,” Bond said.
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 last January that Balaquit’s wife confirmed they were her husband’s bank numbers.
Balaquit would not have given up his bank card numbers willingly and Pietz would have had to use violence to get them, Bond said.
In hiding Balaquit’s remains, Pietz “inhibited the police investigation, interfered with the courts’ search for the truth of what happened and denied the victim’s family the basic dignity of closure,” Bond said.
Edward Balaquit said family members are feeling “dread” at the prospect Pietz will appeal his conviction and “we have to do it all over again.”
Court heard at trial Balaquit worked long hours at multiple jobs to support his family. Four years after his death, family members still miss him every day, Edward said.
“He was tired but he made sure (that) didn’t get in the way of how he cared for us,” Edward said. “He loved everyone and wanted everyone to know they were loved. He tried his best for everyone… and this is the reward he got. It’s not what someone deserves.”
Pietz received credit for time already served, reducing his remaining sentence to just under 15 years.
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.