Crown alleges Eduardo Balaquit’s death caused by accused’s ‘financial desperation’

The wife of a man missing for nearly four years broke down in tears as she testified in a Winnipeg courtroom about the effect her husband’s disappearance has had on her and their family.

“It’s breaking my heart all the time,” said Iluminada Balaquit.

She spoke in the afternoon on the first day of the trial of Kyle Pietz, who was 35 when he was charged in March 2021 with manslaughter in the death of 59-year-old Eduardo Balaquit.

On June 4, 2018, Eduardo Balaquit went missing. His body has never been found, and there is no DNA evidence linking Pietz to his death.

Crown attorney Vanessa Gama, speaking Monday morning, told the 14-member jury that the evidence presented in the trial will show that Balaquit is dead, and that Pietz is responsible.

“This is a case about a man driven by desperation, and the desperate measures he took on June 4, 2018 that cost Eduardo Balaquit his life,” Gama said.

Pietz has pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent.

During the hearing he sat behind the Crown and defence attorneys, with short dark hair and wearing a black hooded sweater and black collared T-shirt. 

Consistency and routine

In her opening statement, Gama said Balaquit’s life of “consistency and routine” left a trail for police following his disappearance on the night of June 4, 2018 — and that trail led directly to Pietz.

That trail included a mysterious trip to Arborg, Man., and back the night of Balaquit’s disappearance. Two of his debit cards were inserted at a 7-11 on Ellice Avenue, with correct PINs, and money was withdrawn.

“This is a case about financial desperation,” Gama told jurors.

Gama contrasted the characters of Balaquit and Pietz. 

Balaquit was a hard-working man who owned his own cleaning business while working a full-time job he had held for more than 20 years, she said.

Pietz, on the other hand, “was spiraling out of control.”

“By June 4, 2018, payments were bouncing, creditors were calling, and he had absolutely no money in his bank account. For Kyle Pietz, it was financial rock-bottom,” Gama said.

Break-in and theft

One of the businesses Balaquit cleaned was Westcon Equipment on Keewatin Street, where Gama said Pietz previously worked.

On April  24, 2018, there was a break in at Westcon and $1,700 was taken from a petty cash box. Pietz’s fingerprint was found on a pamphlet used to jimmy the lock into the building, Gama said.

Shortly after the break-in, Pietz stopped showing up to work.

On June 4, 2018, Balaquit went to clean the offices at Westcon. That same day, near closing time, an employee noticed Pietz’s vehicle circling the building, Gama said.

“Mr. Balaquit entered his alarm code at 6:05 p.m., and he was never seen or heard from ever again,” Gama said.

Police spoke to Pietz the day after Balaquit’s disappearance. Pietz told police he had been with Balaquit, Gama said.

Pietz became a suspect and police searched his home. They found pivotal evidence of what happened to Balaquit the night he went missing, Gama said.

Unanswered question

Although the Crown says their evidence will show who was responsible for Balaquit’s death, and when, where and why it occurred, it may not show how he died, Gama said.

In addition to his wife, the court heard from Balaquit’s two adult sons, Edward and Irwin Balaquit. 

Irwin Balaquit told court that he sometimes helped his father clean at Westcon, but that he had never heard of Pietz before.

He said it was unlike his father not to call if he was going to be home late, and his family began searching after he didn’t return. The next day, he found his father’s van with the passenger window smashed.

Crown attorneys asked all three family members if they had ever known Balaquit to give his PINs to strangers, or to give money away to strangers, to which they all replied no.

Iluminada Balaquit, Eduardo’s wife, said her husband had no history of mental health problems, had no medical issues, and had never gone missing before.

“He was always happy,” she said. “You’re never going to see him down.”

Balaquit was a dedicated family man who always celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, and was preparing for their son Edward’s wedding before he disappeared. 

This month would have marked their 42nd wedding anniversary, she said.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.