Eduardo Balaquit's disappearance was an act of financial desperation, crown alleges

Financial desperation drove Kyle Alexander Pietz to Westcon Equipment and Rentals on the evening of June 4, 2018, where long-time contract cleaner Eduardo Balaquit, 59, was targeted either personally or as a means to get into the building and robbed of his bank cards and personal identification numbers (PINs), the Crown argued in its closing arguments of a jury trial that has taken place over the past month.

“Eduardo Balaquit was a hardworking, devoted family man,” Brent Davidson, a Crown attorney, argued Tuesday in the Manitoba Court of Queens Bench. “Everything changed at 6:05 p.m. on June 4, 2018.

“The trail of evidence leads directly to Kyle Pietz for manslaughter.”

Pietz, 36, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in Balaquit’s disappearance and is presumed innocent.

Amanda Sansregret, one of Pietz’s lawyers, told the jury in her closing arguments there’s a lack of evidence and Pietz should be acquitted.

“Suspicion, which you are entitled to, is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sansregret argued. “Mr. Pietz cannot be convicted. There are other available inferences. The only available and just verdict is one of not guilty.”

Balaquit’s body has never been found. Davidson argued it’s not an impediment to a conviction and that the only reasonable explanation for Balaquit’s disappearance is that he’s dead.

“Eduardo Balaquit lost his life for $700,” Davidson argued.

Davidson told jurors Balaquit disarmed the alarm using a code at Westcon at 6:05 p.m., as he’d done for the past 20 years, before Pietz, a former Westcon employee who drove a vehicle similar to one captured on surveillance video in the area and who witnesses testified was seen driving in the area, waited for Balaquit to show up to clean the business.

“Mr. Pietz circled and waited for his intended target,” Davidson told the court.

He argued Pietz then robbed Balaquit of his bank cards and PINs using violence – a dangerous act the Crown argued caused Balaquit’s death inside Westcon.

“Kyle Pietz caused his death during this robbery. You can be sure those were not handed over willingly. He obtained them through violence,” Davidson told jurors. “The mechanism of death was not a bloodletting action.”

He argued Balaquit wasn’t stabbed or shot and told jurors there are a plethora of other ways his death could’ve been caused, arguing the Crown does not need to prove exactly how Balaquit died, but it does need to prove that Pietz caused his death.

Davidson argued Pietz discarded Balaquit’s body somewhere north of Winnipeg towards Arborg, Man., where court heard Pietz’s cellphone communicated with cell towers in the area.

Court heard 24 zip ties paired together to make 12 longer ones and a roll of duct tape were found in the garbage of Pietz’s home beneath a box of 7-Eleven chicken wings. Packaging for the zip ties was found in Pietz’s vehicle, the jury heard.

“Mr. Pietz had means, motive and opportunity and also disposed of evidence,” Davidson argued.

Davidson told jurors three of Balaquit’s PINs were written on a sticky note stuck to a 7-Eleven bag found in Pietz’s fridge during a search of his home by the Winnipeg Police Service’s forensic identification unit.

“These 12 numbers found in Mr. Pietz’s fridge are Eduardo’s PINs,” Davidson argued. “These 12 numbers tell you everything.”

Sansregret disagreed.

“The evidence may suggest he had his PIN numbers…but is there evidence he had his bank cards?” Sansregret argued, referring to evidence two other men admitted to breaking into Balaquit’s van and stealing his wallet.

“You know other people had other cards,” Sansregret told the jury.

Surveillance video obtained by investigators from a 7-Eleven at around 12:30 a.m. on June 5, 2018, shows an individual entering the store to use the ATM. Court has heard that $700 was taken out from Balaquit’s account in three separate transactions using a correct PIN.

The jury was told it is an agreed fact that one of Pietz’s sisters told police the individual in the video clip was her brother Kyle. A different sister, Carly Martin, testified she’s not 100 per cent sure about the identity of the person in the video.

“On the same day that Mr. Balaquit died his accounts were drained by a male who had significant financial challenges,” Davidson argued. “Mr. Pietz’s financial desperation drove him to Westcon.”

“There is ample evidence to satisfy you of Mr. Pietz’s guilt.”

Davidson pointed to testimony given during the trial about how in the lead up to Balaquit’s disappearance, Pietz’s credit cards were maxed out, loan payments were bouncing and creditors were calling Pietz, who the court heard had quit his job at Westcon following an April 2018 theft of $1,700 from a cash box that the Crown argued Pietz committed.

Sansregret argued there’s a reasonable explanation for a fingerprint matching Pietz’s found on a pamphlet from inside the business after the theft which the Crown argued was used to prevent a door lock from engaging.

“Part of his job was to put those pamphlets there and to handle those pamphlets,” Sansregret argued.

She also told the jury lots of people have money problems.

“It’s not a motive to kill, of all folks, the night cleaner,” Sansregret argued. “It makes no sense. It defies common sense.”

Sansregret told jurors there’s much evidence that does not support the Crown’s theory Pietz caused Balaquit’s death during a robbery.

“Nobody observed Mr. Pietz and Mr. Balaquit together at Westcon,” Sansregret told jurors. “We say with respect there is no forensic evidence in this case that assists you with that.”

Pietz’s lawyers called no evidence in the trial.

Justice Sadie Bond is scheduled to give legal instructions to jurors Wednesday morning before they begin their deliberations on a verdict.