By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Standing in a courtroom six months after a jury found Kyle Pietz guilty of manslaughter in the death and disappearance of Eduardo Balaquit, the victim’s son pleaded for the location of his father’s body.
“I ask Kyle to speak up … after doing so much wrong, do the one thing that’s right,” Edward Balaquit said while reading a victim impact statement.
A sentencing hearing for Pietz, 37, took place Wednesday in front of Court of King’s Bench Justice Sadie Bond.
More than two dozen of Balaquit’s family attended, including his wife and two sons.
Illuminada Balaquit clutched a red, wooden cross as she described to the court the effect of losing her “best friend and husband” four years ago.
“Every day, every night, every minute (and) every hour, we have nightmares. My heart is completely broken,” said Balaquit’s wife.
Crown attorney Vanessa Gama said Pietz resorted to “an act of planned and premeditated violence against a vulnerable person,” with the purpose of financial gain.
She argued the aggravating factors relating to Balaquit’s death and the planned nature of the robbery make 18 years a “fit and appropriate sentence.”
Pietz’s lawyers are asking for a sentence of eight to 10 years, arguing that without a cause of death, the Crown is relying on circumstantial evidence.
Defence lawyer Brett Taylor said there are more unanswered questions in the case than there are answers.
Bond has reserved her decision until Dec. 12.
A jury found Pietz guilty in Balaquit’s presumed death in the spring.
Balaquit was last seen on June 4, 2018, when he left his home to go to his job as a night cleaner. His body has never been found and police were unable to determine how he died.
Court heard the two men worked together at Westcon Equipment and Rentals.
Pietz was jobless, in debt and defaulting on payments at the time of Balaquit’s disappearance.
Gama said Pietz went to the Westcon building with the intention of targeting the cleaner, who was 59 at the time of his disappearance, because he worked alone.
“This wasn’t an accident. His plan was to rob Mr. Balaquit to get cash, and his plan was successful,” she said.
The Crown argued Pietz killed the cleaner in the building, put his body in the back of his SUV and disposed of it near Arborg, Man., about 120 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Court records presented during trial tracked Pietz in the area of the Westcon building and then later near Arborg.
Police found a sticky note with Balaquit’s bank card details in Pietz’s home, but investigators were unable to locate the actual cards. The victim’s accounts were drained of $700.
Gama argued Pietz was in possession of zip ties and duct tape, and used these items to coerce Balaquit to provide his banking details before killing him.
“Pietz knew it was possible he would have to extract information using violence,” she said.
“Killing of Mr. Balaquit was not a mere accident.”
Lawyer Amanda Sansregret, who is also representing Pietz, told the court her client grew up in an unstable home where he witnessed addictions and anger management issues. He was sexually abused by a teenage babysitter when he was younger, she said.
He began using alcohol as a way to cope as a young adult and became homeless after that, but has abstained from drinking since 2018, she said.
Pietz’s family members provided statements to the court that said he wasn’t a violent man and doted on hiscommon-lawpartner and their two children.
Pietz has no previous convictions.
Court heard Balaquit was a loving husband and devoted father who worked multiple jobs to provide for his family.
Edward Balaquit told the court his family has faced financial difficulties in the last four years. They had to close his father’s businesses. The family has also had to endure ongoing legal challenges with declaring his father legally deceased that have caused undue hardship.
Irwin Balaquit said he has struggled with depression and anxiety since his father’s disappearance.
“Nothing is the same. (It) left a hole in my heart that could never be filled.”