A former co-worker placed Kyle Pietz at the scene where prosecutors allege he robbed and killed Eduardo Balaquit one day later, a jury has heard.
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 never been found.
Pietz, 36, is on trial for manslaughter.
Derek Barron testified he and Pietz had worked together in Westcons parts department for a couple of months before Pietz quit in the spring of 2018. Prosecutors allege Pietz stole $1,700 from a petty cash box that April and quit a month later.
Barron told jurors he was on-call Sunday, June 3, when he received a call on his work cellphone shortly after 7 a.m. from an unidentified man who said he needed a key for a grader.
Barron, who was out of town at his parents cottage, said the call dropped after 40 seconds, and he definitely thought it was Kyle.
Barron said he was driving back to the city later that evening when he received a second call from the same man.
I said: Hey, is this Kyle? Barron said. The response was: No, its not Kyle. He sounded a bit ticked off so I backpedalled.
The man provided a company name and identified himself as Don and arranged to meet Barron at the office at 8:30 p.m. to pick up the grader key, Barron said.
No one came to pick up a grader key, but Pietz showed up at 9 p.m., Barron said.
As soon as he walked in the door, I called him out on the spot, Barron said. He said: No, I didnt do that.
When Barron asked Pietz why he was there, he claimed he had been delivering pizzas in the area and saw Barrons car.
He was inquiring about whether he had been replaced, whether they were hiring anybody, Barron said.
Earlier, jurors heard testimony from Winnipeg Police Service Const. Christine Mazerolle who said she and her partner were on their way to Westcon Equipment the morning of June 5 when they were alerted that Balaquits 2012 Dodge Caravan had been found in the parking lot of a neighbouring business on Keewatin Street.
Mazerolle said the window of the passenger-side door had been smashed out and several items were strewn on the ground, including a metal pipe, cellphone charger, and safety glasses.
An officer with the forensic identification unit said fingerprint impressions were taken from the van and inside Westcon, but jurors were not told if they belonged to Pietz.
The trial was delayed Tuesday morning after it was revealed a juror had tested positive overnight for COVID-19.
The proceedings began again after a break, during which the 13 remaining jurors took rapid tests and all were negative.
There is no public-health order in place that requires a juror to self-isolate, but nevertheless I directed that (the) juror not attend this morning, Queens Bench Justice Sadie Bond told the other jurors.
Current public-health advice does not recommend self-isolation for those who have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive, and instead recommends they self-monitor their symptoms for 14 days, Bond said.
Jurors remain masked in court and are seated apart from each other. Bond asked jurors who may be at greater risk of developing COVID-19 to put their concerns in writing.
An alternate juror was selected for duty Monday after the juror had tested positive for the virus.
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.