Jurors were back in court Tuesday, hearing evidence in the trial of a man accused of killing Eduardo Balaquit, six days after a judge ordered a temporary suspension of proceedings due to two positive COVID-19 test results among the jury.

Jurors were back in court Tuesday, hearing evidence in the trial of a man accused of killing Eduardo Balaquit, six days after a judge ordered a temporary suspension of proceedings due to two positive COVID-19 test results among the jury.

They didn’t get a chance to get too comfortable.

<p>Eduardo Balaquit disappeared June 5th, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO</p>

Eduardo Balaquit disappeared June 5th, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

With Winnipeg bracing for an epic spring blizzard, Queen’s Bench Justice Sadie Bond told jurors the trial would be taking another break, with testimony set to resume April 19.

“That’s in the interest of everybody’s safety,” Bond told jurors before the lunch break. “It’s not reasonable for us… given what we’re being told is coming, to expect that you will all be able to arrive here safely.”

Bond said even with the delays, the six-week trial should finish within the allotted time.

Balaquit, 59, disappeared June 4, 2018, after leaving home for Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street, where he had a long-standing contract as a cleaner. His body has not been found.

Kyle Pietz, a former employee at Westcon, is accused of killing Balaquit during the course of a robbery. He has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

Prosecutors allege Pietz was in desperate financial straits and after finishing his shift at Westcon on April 24, 2018, returned and stole approximately $1,700 from a petty cash box.

On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from Westcon vice-president and general manager Mike Smiegielski. Smiegielski told jurors he received a call from the business’s alarm company around 10:30 p.m., April 24.

“I was advised that several alarms had been triggered, meaning someone was in the building,” he said.

Smiegielski arrived about 20 minutes later, entered the business through a front door, and quickly noticed the door of a cabinet where the petty cash was kept was ajar.

Smiegielski said he found a company brochure underneath the front door and believed the intruder had placed it between the door jamb and latch bolt to prevent it from locking.

Jurors have heard police later found Pietz’s fingerprints on the brochure.

Jurors were shown a list indicating Pietz was among several employees who had a key for the building. He also had an individual pass code to disarm the alarm system.

Smiegielski said had the alarm system been disarmed the night of the theft, the passcode of the person who disarmed it would have been recorded.

Smiegielski said Pietz turned in his keys May 16, and two days later sent an email to another Westcon administrator formally resigning.

Under cross examination, defence lawyer Amanda Sansregret suggested another employee was responsible for the theft. That employee had a criminal record, something Westcon had failed to check when they hired him.

“That was one of those things that fell through the cracks,” Smiegielski said. That employee later “got into some trouble” and landed in jail,” he said. “When he came back, we let him go.”

On June 5, one day after Balaquit was last been seen alive, Smiegielski arrived at work at 6:30 a.m. to find the alarm system had not been set — something Balaquit almost never failed to do after finishing his work.

“I would say 99 per cent of the time it was armed when he left,” he said.

Inside, Smiegielski noticed piles of dust and dirt. “I was wondering what was going on, because it appeared Eddie had not cleaned the building.”

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.