A van abandoned in a deserted parking lot, shattered glass on the pavement, a cellphone left behind and a missing father.
Those are the clues a Winnipeg family is desperately trying to piece together to determine what happened to Eduardo Balaquit, 59, who disappeared Monday evening. The family knows the situation looks bad, his son Edward Balaquit said Wednesday.
Winnipeg police homicide investigators are on the case.
"It doesn’t seem real, and I don’t know if it ever will until this gets resolved," said Edward, 31. "You hear people say that, but we’re feeling it now.
"We’re worried; there are no words to describe what we’re feeling."
Balaquit was last seen Monday at about 6 p.m. in the Amber Trails area in the northwest corner of the city. He was on his way to a business in the 300 block of Keewatin Street, where he did evening contract work as a cleaner.
When he didn’t come home that night, his family knew something was wrong, Edward said.
Balaquit's vehicle was found Tuesday in a secluded, commercial parking lot in the 300 block of Keewatin Avenue, tucked behind some businesses that he didn’t work at. The passenger-side window of his van — a grey, 2012 Dodge Caravan — was smashed, and his cellphone was inside.
Barry Calsbeck, who works in the area, noticed the van when he started his shift Tuesday. At first, he assumed someone had ditched a stolen van in the lot overnight. It wasn’t until later, he said, that he learned a man was missing.
"I could see the window was broken on the passenger side. The glass was there on the lot. There were papers, you know, stuff that would be in a glove box, dumped on the ground, Calsbeck said. "One, I think, was an envelope, like a bill or the registration to the vehicle."
Later that day, Calsbeck saw police vehicles at the scene and officers taping off the parking lot.
"That’s when I thought, ‘Oh, well there’s something more going on here,’" he said.
By the time Balaquit's family was notified and arrived at the scene, police had the area secured, so they didn’t get a good look inside the vehicle, Edward said.
"When we got there police had already ruled it as foul play," he said. "We weren’t allowed to touch anything, we weren’t able to see much. We didn’t see any blood, which is good.
"There were some of his belongings in the vehicle, some work stuff. His phone was also inside and it wasn’t on, but I’m not sure if it was turned off or if it had died."
The owner of the business Balaquit was scheduled to work for Monday night told the Free Press the van was always parked directly in front of the building, which faces the street.
But the van was found further back from the road, in a separate lot on the property in a more secluded area.
Balaquit has no history of disappearances or mental illness, his son said, adding he works two jobs to support his family and is the type of man who works even when he's sick.
"If he was calling in sick, that was a lost income for the family. He has a full-time job as a machine operator and he also owns a cleaning business, Edward said. "He was so busy all the time, that’s why this is so unusual. My dad didn’t even have time to make enemies."
Edward is scheduled to get married at the end of July, an event he said his father is looking forward to and wouldn’t miss.
"He wouldn’t do this," the son said. "He wouldn’t just disappear."
The family organized search parties Tuesday and Wednesday in Amber Trails.
Const. Jay Murray said police are asking anyone with information on Balaquit's whereabouts, or any businesses that may have surveillance footage from the area, to contact police.
"At this point, there are a number of concerns and circumstances that have led the homicide unit to become involved. It doesn’t happen often, unless we find something suspicious surrounding the disappearance of the individual. This is a very unusual event for this individual," Murray said.
Balaquit is described as 5-4, 155 pounds with a medium build. He has black hair, brown eyes and was last seen wearing a black zip-up sweater, black pants and black shoes.
When asked what he’d say to his father if he could speak to him now, Edward fell silent for a moment, before saying: "We’re looking for you. We want you home. We miss you."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.