The Winnipeg Police Service renewed calls for information on the whereabouts of Eduardo Balaquit in the wake of Wednesday night’s guilty verdict for a man now convicted of manslaughter in his disappearance and death.
The 59-year-old contract cleaner vanished after going to work at a heavy equipment dealership on Keewatin Street nearly four years ago.
It’s still not known how Balaquit died and his body has never been found.
“A reminder to the public he still hasn’t been found. We’re still asking for the public’s assistance,” Sgt. Wade McDonald, a supervising detective with the WPS, said outside the Law Courts building on Wednesday. “We won’t be giving up. Always looking.”
The circumstances of Balaquit’s disappearance gripped the community and were considered mysterious right from the get-go.
But even after the conviction, his family is still left seeking closure.
“Throughout this whole process, we were hoping that the evidence would show us where my dad is or if this person would finally tell us where he is,” Edward Balaquit, Eduardo’s son, told reporters after the verdict was read out in court. “He didn’t give us that information we needed.”
Balaquit worked during the day Monday to Friday for a fabric company. He would go home for a short break and then head back to work in the evenings for his own company — a janitorial business he ran for 20 years.
He cleaned four businesses — including Westcon Equipment and Rentals — and on the weekends he DJ’d at socials and weddings. His family said he liked playing music but he also worked so hard because he wanted to help give them more than he had growing up.
“He was a very proud man,” Edward said. “He was very confident in his job. It was something that made him happy to do for his family.”
The last time Balaquit was known to be alive was 6:05 p.m. on June 4, 2018, when he disarmed the alarm at Westcon — just as he’d done for the past two decades. But that night was different because Balaquit never returned home, setting off a series of searches throughout Winnipeg and rural areas around Arborg, Man.
On Wednesday night, a jury found Kyle Pietz, 36, guilty of manslaughter.
“My dad did everything for us. He was a kind man to everyone. It meant the world for this man to go away,” Edward said. “It’s a weight off our shoulders, basically.”
Prosecutors argued Pietz – a former Westcon employee who court heard had no income, significant debt and who the Crown argued was desperate for cash at the time of Balaquit’s death –
circled Westcon and waited for his intended target.
The Crown alleged Pietz, who was seen wearing a Westcon shirt in surveillance video that night, killed Balaquit at the business while robbing him of his bank cards and personal identification numbers (PINs).
It was the prosecution’s theory he then went to a Safeway and a Manitoba Liquor Mart with Balaquit in the back of his blue Ford Escape before driving north of Winnipeg towards Arborg to hide his body.
Extensive searches of the area shortly after Balaquit’s disappearance failed to locate any significant clues.
Prosecutors argued Pietz then used Balaquit’s bank cards and PINs to withdraw a total of $700 from Balaquit’s bank account at a 7-Eleven ATM on Ellice Avenue in the early morning hours of June 5, 2018.
With no blood or DNA evidence, a sticky note found two days after Balaquit’s disappearance in a 7-Eleven bag in Pietz’s fridge is what the Crown argued linked Pietz to Balaquit and to the crime scene because it contained a phone number for a Westcon customer and Balaquit’s PINs.
Even though police had the note early on, prosecutors only learned earlier this year that Balaquit’s PINs were on the piece of the paper after his wife Iluminada confirmed the information ahead of Pietz’s trial.
“That was critical,” said Sgt. McDonald. “A review of the file was constant. With all files going to court and during the investigation there’s constant reviews and it was a critical finding and it hopefully assisted the Crown’s office in this matter.”
On the night of Balaquit’s disappearance, two other men stole Balaquit’s wallet after smashing the window of Balaquit’s van, which was seen by a witness being moved from Westcon to a neighbouring parking lot during the time prosecutors argued Pietz was at Westcon.
Their attempts to take out money using Balaquit’s bank cards were unsuccessful.
Hearing the details in court wasn’t easy for the Balaquits.
“They showed scenes that we saw right away, scenes that we didn’t know about it. A lot of stuff that we didn’t want to hear but had to hear,” Edward said. “Difficult is not a strong enough word.”
Pietz’s lawyer declined comment. He’s now facing significant time in custody with the Crown indicating it’ll be seeking a life sentence. Pietz, who was free on bail, was taken into custody where he’ll remain while awaiting sentencing.
His next court appearance is scheduled for June 8 but no sentencing date has been set as of yet.
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