Arrested by homicide detectives a day after Eduardo Balaquit was reported missing, Kyle Pietz expressed surprise it was believed he had been murdered, jurors heard Wednesday.

Arrested by homicide detectives a day after Eduardo Balaquit was reported missing, Kyle Pietz expressed surprise it was believed he had been murdered, jurors heard Wednesday.

"Is Eddie dead?" Winnipeg Police Service Sgt. John Taylor quoted Pietz as saying as he was handcuffed and advised of his rights outside his Toronto Street home on June 5, 2018.

<p>Ho / The Canadian Press - Winnipeg Police Service</p><p>Edward Balaquit, 59, disappeared June 4, after leaving home for Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street, where he had a long-standing contract as a cleaner. His body has never been found.</p>

Ho / The Canadian Press - Winnipeg Police Service

Edward Balaquit, 59, disappeared June 4, after leaving home for Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street, where he had a long-standing contract as a cleaner. His body has never been found.

Balaquit, 59, disappeared June 4, after leaving home for Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street, where he had a long-standing contract as a cleaner. His body has never been found.

Pietz, a former employee at Westcon, is on trial for manslaughter. Prosecutors allege Pietz killed Balaquit during a robbery.

Taylor testified he told Pietz he was being arrested "out of an abundance of caution" after an interview with him raised "inconsistencies in his story."

"I also said there could be a very reasonable explanation for what’s happened and we just ultimately have to find out what happened to Eddie," Taylor told jurors. "He replied: "You don’t know he was murdered. You don’t know what happened."

Jurors heard police visited Pietz’s home after receiving a call from a Westcon employee reporting he had seen his blue Ford Escape in the area for nearly three hours the night Balaquit disappeared.

At that time, Pietz "was a witness like any other witness," Taylor said. "At this point, there wasn’t any substantive evidence this was a homicide. We knew Mr. Pietz was seen in the area, we knew there might be a relationship with Mr. Balaquit."

Pietz wasn’t home when police arrived shortly after 4 p.m., June 5, but his common-law wife was.

According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Aloha Valencia said she, Pietz and their two young children were at home together June 4, until about 3 p.m. when she and the children left to run errands.

When she returned at 7 p.m., Pietz was gone with the car, she told police. Valencia said she was in bed when Pietz returned around 10 p.m. with chicken from 7-11 and groceries from Safeway.

Pietz answered the door when police returned to his home shortly before 9 p.m., June 5, Taylor said. Questioned about his activities the previous night, Pietz told police he was out "driving around" from about 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"He indicated he loves to drive, drives all over the city, it’s like a hobby for him," Taylor said.

Taylor said Pietz told police he drove by Westcon when he saw Balaquit’s Dodge Caravan and drove into the parking lot. Pietz said they talked for a few minutes before Pietz asked Balaquit if he could get him some carboard boxes from inside the business. Pietz said he waited in his car and Balaquit returned with boxes about 20 minutes later.

Pietz estimated he was parked outside Westcon about 35 minutes before he drove away.

Taylor said given the report Pietz had been seen driving around Westcon for nearly three hours, he "appear(ed) to be lying."

Jurors watched surveillance video from a nearby business that shows a Dodge Caravan, believed to be Balaquit’s, approaching Westcon at 6:03 p.m., June 4. Jurors have heard he entered his alarm code at Westcon at 6:05 p.m.

Surveillance video in the same area showed a blue Ford Escape, which prosecutors say belonged to Pietz, driving back and forth around Westcon several times between 5:33 p.m. and 6:04 p.m. Surveillance video picked up the vehicle again on Westcon’s perimeter at 8:26 p.m.

Under cross examination, Sgt. Derek Moroz conceded the vehicle’s licence plate was not visible on the video, nor was a distinguishing dent on the driver-side front door for several of the drive-bys.

Security video at the nearby Tyndall Market Mall on Keewatin Street showed Pietz arriving at the mall entrance at 8:29 p.m.

The trial resumes Monday.

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.