Manslaughter conviction in presumed death of Eduardo Balaquit ‘means the world,’ son says
A jury has found a Manitoba man guilty of manslaughter in the presumed death of 59-year-old Eduardo Balaquit, who went missing nearly four years ago.
Kyle Pietz, 36, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of manslaughter.
The jury delivered its verdict in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench just before 8 p.m. on Wednesday, after beginning deliberations earlier in the day.
Seated in the front row of the courtroom, Balaquit’s family let out a sigh when the verdict was read by the foreperson of the jury, then hugged and held hands.
“My dad did everything for us. He was a kind man to everyone. It means the world for this man to go away [to jail],” Edward Balaquit, the victim’s son, told media outside the courthouse.
Balaquit was last seen on June 4, 2018, when he was working as a night cleaner at a business in Winnipeg. He disarmed the building’s alarm code at 6:05 p.m. and was never seen or heard from again.
His body has never been found, and there was no DNA evidence linking Pietz to his death.
“Throughout this whole process, we were hoping that the evidence would show us where my dad is, or [Pietz] would finally tell us where he is,” Edward said.
“That’s the piece that we really want to know.”
A case of financial desperation: Crown
Over the course of the trial, which was presided over by Queen’s Bench Justice Sadie Bond and lasted close to a month, the Crown argued that financial desperation led Pietz to rob Balaquit, and that the 59-year-old was killed during that robbery. The Crown alleged that Pietz disposed of Balaquit’s body.
Prosecutors argued Pietz badly needed cash as he was unemployed and owed creditors a significant amount of money.
However, defence lawyer Amanda Sansregret argued the Crown’s contention that Pietz killed Balaquit for financial reasons was nothing but a theory.
After the verdict, Pietz’s bail was revoked and he was taken into custody to await sentencing on June 8. The Crown will be seeking a life sentence.
During the trial, court heard that Pietz worked until May 2018 at Westcon Equipment and Rentals, the same building as the victim.
Prosecutors alleged that weeks before Balaquit’s disappearance, Pietz stole $1,700 in cash from a lockbox at the business. Shortly after the theft, Pietz stopped showing up for work.
The Crown argued that financial desperation led him back to the business on June 4, 2018.
Prosecutors alleged that Pietz killed Balaquit during the robbery that night, then put his body into his SUV, covered it with boxes and took it to a rural area outside the city.
No one testified they saw the two together that evening. However, court heard $700 had been withdrawn from Balaquit’s accounts, and police found a Post-it note with Balaquit’s personal identification numbers in Pietz’s home.
Balaquit’s family testified he was a hard-working father whose life was full of consistency and routine.
Since his father’s disappearance, Edward has gotten married and has become a father himself to a little girl.
“Every milestone she has, I try to picture what he would do. I try to be the father that I think he would want me to be,” Edward said, while holding back tears.
“I wish she met my father, I really do.”