By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The last four years have been difficult for Eduardo Balaquit’s loved ones, but his son said they felt some consolation after a judge handed a 16-year prison sentence to the man found guilty of manslaughter in the missing cleaner’s death.
“It’s a relief that we don’t have to explain or hear the same story over and over, relive everything,” Edward Balaquit said Monday. “But at the same time, we are still living through the pain.”
A Manitoba Court of King’s Bench judge told the court a lengthy term must be imposed because of the lengths to which Kyle Pietz, 37, went to rob the elder Balaquit, who was working alone as a night cleaner, and later disposing of his body.
Justice Sadie Bond said the evidence satisfies her beyond a reasonable doubt that Pietz planned to rob Balaquit.
“This was not an impulsive act,” she said. “Mr. Pietz planned and waited for his victim.”
Balaquit was last seen on June 4, 2018, when he left his home to go to work. His body has not 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.
The Crown argued Pietz went to the Westcon building with the intention of robbing the cleaner, who was 59 at the time of his disappearance, because he worked alone.
“Mr. Pietz took advantage of those circumstances,” said Bond. “Mr. Pietz’s exploitation of that vulnerability was an aggravating factor here.”
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, the Crown argued.
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.
Court heard 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.
Bond said there was nothing presented that suggested Pietz was under the influence at the time of the robbery, and that the only reasonable conclusion that may be drawn from the evidence is he disposed of Balaquit’s body.
“It is inconceivable that when he went to rob Mr. Balaquit he did not know the risks … Mr. Pietz would have known he would have to subject Mr. Balaquit to a level of violence.”
The harm done to the Balaquit family has been “nothing short of devastating,” Bond said during her ruling.
“(They were) deprived of the dignity of a funeral or a memorial service.”
Edward Balaquit is encouraging Pietz to share details about where his father’s body is.
“Every day is a day we miss him. He is important to us,” he said.
Pietz’s lawyers asked for a sentence of eight to 10 years, arguing that without a cause of death, the Crown relied on circumstantial evidence. The Crown asked for a sentence of 18 years.
The court heard Pietz has no prior convictions, was employed in Saskatchewan before being arrested and has family support.
The support indicates there are chances for his rehabilitation, said Bond.
Dozens of the Balaquit family’s relatives and friends were on hand for the sentencing.
Edward Balaquit said he is thankful for the support his family has received over the past four years.
“The support has been amazing. Not just from family, but strangers. They message us and say this shouldn’t have happened to anyone.”