A Winnipeg jury has found Kyle Pietz, 35, guilty of manslaughter in the disappearance and presumed death of Eduardo Balaquit, a Winnipeg man who went missing from his workplace nearly four years ago.
Members of Balaquit’s family gasped when the verdict was read and some hugged each other.
“In honour of my dad, I mean, this person needed to go to jail,” Balaquit’s son, Edward, told reporters outside the law courts.
“In an unbiased way we thought (the verdict) was pretty obvious and thankfully the jury saw it the same way.”
The jury reached a verdict just after 7 p.m. Wednesday night, roughly six hours after beginning its deliberations.
The Crown alleged Pietz stole Balaquit’s bank cards and personal identification numbers (PIN) and the latter died during the robbery. Afterwards, they told court, Pietz put Balaquit’s body in his SUV and transported it to a rural area.
Balaquit’s body has never been found, which his son was hoping to hear some more information on.
“It’s good the person that was responsible for the crimes against my father is finally found guilty,” Edward said.
“Throughout this process, we were hoping that 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 and that’s the piece we really wanted to know.”
Crown prosecutors had argued Pietz was facing significant debt and in desperate need of cash when Balaquit went missing on June 4, 2018, from Westcon Equipment and Rentals where he worked as a cleaner.
Court heard Pietz worked at the same business until a month prior.
Prosecutors put forward that Pietz’s financial situation led him to his former workplace, because it was “an easy mark,” and “Balaquit was targeted either personally or as a means to get in that building.”
Jurors previously heard officers found a Post-it Note with Balaquit’s PIN numbers on it in Pietz’s home. His accounts were drained of $700.
Sgt. Wade McDonald, with the Winnipeg Police Service’s homicide unit, says the Post-it Note was a “critical” piece of evidence.
“We never always got the results we wanted,” said Sgt. McDonald, adding it was a “challenging” investigation.
“We continued on for a number of years and charges were laid, and today: justice for the Balaquits.”
Pietz’s defence said the exhibits may be evidence of theft, but not of manslaughter.
“For over four years, the Winnipeg Police Service has tirelessly investigated the disappearance of Eduardo Balaquit,” Crown attorney Brent Davidson said outside of court.
“For four years, the focus of that investigation was on Kyle Pietz. Based upon the verdict today, the focus now turns to the Balaquit family.”
The crown says it will be seeking a life sentence. Pietz was remanded in custody and had his bail revoked, upon the request of prosecutors.
Pietz hugged his lawyer and was put in handcuffs before leaving the courtroom.