By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A sense of justice washed over the family of Eduardo Balaquit Wednesday after a jury found a man guilty of manslaughter in his disappearance and death.
Kyle Pietz had pleaded not guilty to the charge. Balaquit was last seen on June 4, 2018, when he left his Winnipeg home to go to his job as a night cleaner. His body is still missing and police were unable to determine how he died.
His son, Edward Balaquit, said the verdict helped lift a weight off the family but added closure will come when his father’s body is finally found.
“It’s good the person that was responsible for the crimes against my father is finally found guilty,” Edward Balaquit told reporters outside court.
“We thought the evidence would show where my dad is or if this person would finally tell us where he is. He didn’t give us that information we needed and that’s the piece that we really want to know.”
Crown prosecutors argued that Pietz killed Balaquit in an act of financial desperation. Court heard Pietz was jobless, in debt and defaulting on payments. The two men had both worked in the Westcon building.
The Crown contends that Pietz killed him in the building, put his body in the back of Pietz’s SUV, covered the body with boxes and disposed of it near Arborg, Man., about 120 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Cellphone records presented during the trial tracked Pietz in the area of the Westcon building and then later near Arborg.
Court heard that officers found a Post-it note with Balaquit’s personal identification numbers on it in Pietz’s home, but investigators were unable to locate the actual cards.
Balaquit’s accounts were drained of $700.
Police found no traces of blood in the building or in Pietz’s car and home.
Pietz’s lawyer argued that, without forensics or a body, jurors could not conclude her client was guilty of manslaughter.
Clutching a wooden crucifix, Balaquit’s wife gasped moments after hearing the guilty verdict and hugged a support worker.
Some members of the family testified during the trial and remained present throughout the process.
“We relived every moment of that initial day and the days after,” said Edward Balaquit.
“Difficult (is) not a strong enough word but it was something that we thought we needed to do.”
Sgt. Wade McDonald of the Winnipeg Police Service said building the case was extremely challenging without Balaquit’s body.
“The investigators were motivated, determined. We never always got the results we wanted. We continued on for a number of years and charges were laid. And today justice for the Balaquits,” he told reporters after the verdict.
“Every once in a while the good guys win.”
McDonald said the next steps will focus on locating Balaquit’s body.
“Focus right now is on the Balaquit family, the community. We spent four years as an investigative team focusing on Kyle Pietz. Today we’re focusing on Mr. Balaquit. A reminder to the public he still hasn’t been found.”
Edward Balaquit said his father is missed by everyone who knew him.
“My dad did everything for us. He was a kind man to everyone. It (means) the world for this man to go away.”
Queen’s Bench Justice Sadie Bond revoked Pietz’s bail and remanded him into custody. Sentencing will happen at a later date.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship