A jury has found a Manitoba man guilty of manslaughter in the presumed death of Eduardo Balaquit, 59, who disappeared nearly four years ago.
Kyle Pietz, 36, had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge.
The jury delivered its verdict in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, after beginning deliberations earlier in the day.
Sitting in the front row of the courtroom, Balaquit’s family heaved a sigh as the verdict was read by the foreman of the jury, then hugged and held hands.
“My father did everything for us. He was a nice man to everyone. It means the world that this man is gone [to jail]”, Edward Balaquit, the victim’s son, told the media outside the courthouse.
Balaquit was last seen on June 4, 2018, while working as a night cleaner at a Winnipeg company. He disarmed the building’s alarm code at 6:05 p.m. and was never seen or heard from again.
His body was never found and there was no DNA evidence linking Pietz to his death.
“During this whole process, we were hoping that the evidence would show us where my father is, or [Pietz] will finally tell us where he is,” Edward said.
“This is the piece we really want to know.”
A Case of Financial Desperation: Crown
During the trial, which was presided over by Queen’s Bench Judge Sadie Bond and lasted nearly a month, the Crown argued that financial desperation led Pietz to steal Balaquit and that the 59-year-old years had been killed during this flight. The Crown alleged that Pietz disposed of Balaquit’s body.
Prosecutors argued that Pietz was in dire need of the money because he was unemployed and owed his creditors a large sum of money.
However, defense attorney Amanda Sansregret maintained that the Crown’s claim that Pietz killed Balaquit for financial reasons was only a theory.
After the verdict, Pietz’s bail was revoked and he was taken into custody pending sentencing on June 8. The Crown will seek a life sentence.
During the trial, the court heard that Pietz had worked until May 2018 at Westcon Equipment and Rentals, the same building as the victim.
Prosecutors alleged that weeks before Balaquit disappeared, Pietz stole $1,700 in cash from a company safe. Shortly after the robbery, Pietz stopped reporting for work.
The Crown argued that financial desperation brought him back to the business on June 4, 2018.
Prosecutors alleged Pietz killed Balaquit during the robbery that night, then put his body in his SUV, covered it in boxes, and drove it to a rural area outside of town.
No one testified to having seen the two together that evening. However, the court heard that $700 had been withdrawn from Balaquit’s accounts, and police found a Post-it note with Balaquit’s personal identification numbers at Pietz’s home.
Balaquit’s family testified that he was a hardworking father whose life was full of consistency and routine.
Since the disappearance of his father, Edward married and himself became the father of a little girl.
“Every step she took, I try to imagine what he would do. I try to be the father that I think he would want me to be,” Edward said, while fighting back tears. .
“I would like her to meet my father, really.”