Eduardo Balaquit’s wife and two sons are holding on to hope his remains will be found, despite marking the fourth anniversary of the dedicated family man’s disappearance and presumed slaying.

Eduardo Balaquit’s wife and two sons are holding on to hope his remains will be found, despite marking the fourth anniversary of the dedicated family man’s disappearance and presumed slaying.

Illuminada Balaquit and her adult children Edward and Erwin held a quiet and sombre day of remembrance, as they gathered at the family home in Winnipeg and prayed together at a church service Saturday.

"It feels empty still," Edward Balaquit told the Free Press Monday. "The day is always a reminder he’s not here. Every day is a reminder, but it’s even more difficult than other days."

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES<p>
Eduardo Balaquit's son Edward Balaquit, with his brother Erwin and mother Illuminada, speaks outside the law courts following Kyle Pietz's manslaughter conviction.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Eduardo Balaquit's son Edward Balaquit, with his brother Erwin and mother Illuminada, speaks outside the law courts following Kyle Pietz's manslaughter conviction.

This year’s reflection was different for the family, coming just a month after a Court of Queen’s Bench jury found Kyle Pietz, 35, guilty of manslaughter in Balaquit’s death.

Eduardo Balaquit, 59, went missing June 4, 2018, after arriving for his shift as a night cleaner at Westcon Equipment and Rentals on Keewatin Street.

Crown prosecutors told jurors former Westcon employee Pietz, who was jobless and facing mounting debts, entered the building and, in an act of desperation, killed Balaquit for his bank cards and their personal identification numbers.

The Crown said Pietz drove around with Balaquit’s body in the back of his sport utility vehicle before disposing of it in the Arborg area, about 110 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

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Eduardo Balaquit

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Eduardo Balaquit

The jury was shown surveillance video of a man, allegedly Pietz, using Balaquit’s bank card to withdraw $700 from an ATM at a 7-Eleven in the early hours of June 5, 2018.

Jurors heard Balaquit’s PINs and the names of two banks were found written on a sticky note stuck to a 7-Eleven food bag in a fridge at Pietz’s Toronto Street home.

Ground searches in the Arborg area failed to turn up Balaquit’s body; investigators were unable to determine how he died.

The court heard there was no DNA linking Pietz to Balaquit’s death.

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The Balaquit family: Edward (from left), Illuminada, Eduardo and Erwin.

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The Balaquit family: Edward (from left), Illuminada, Eduardo and Erwin.

The Crown said it will seek a life sentence for Pietz, whose bail was revoked after the verdict. A sentencing date has not been set, but the case is due to return to court Wednesday for an assignment hearing.

With many questions still unanswered, Edward is hoping Pietz tells homicide detectives where to find his father’s remains or someone else comes forward with information that can solve the mystery.

"I probably wouldn’t want to know anything more out of (Pietz) than where my dad is," he said. "It’s never too late to do the right thing. We just want my dad home."

No further searches are planned because the Balaquits have no direction on where to look.

<p>JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES<p>
Volunteers search for Eduardo Balaquit in Winnipeg on June 10, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Volunteers search for Eduardo Balaquit in Winnipeg on June 10, 2018.

The last search in the Arborg area took place in the 2018 based on an "area of interest" identified by police.

"It was literally a needle in a haystack for us," Edward said. "We don’t know what else we could be doing."

Homicide detectives have stayed in touch with the family and continue to provide updates.

Edward said the family has been assured it is still an "open" investigation and police are committed to finding his father’s body.

<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES<p>
While Edward Balaquit is pleased with the outcome of the trial, there’s no such thing as closure with his father still missing.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

While Edward Balaquit is pleased with the outcome of the trial, there’s no such thing as closure with his father still missing.

Illuminada and her sons were present when the jury delivered its verdict six hours after it began deliberations May 4.

Edward said people have asked the family if the manslaughter conviction has brought closure. While he is pleased with the outcome of the trial, there’s no such thing as closure, with his father still missing.

"At the end of the day, we’re still affected in other ways. My dad is still not around. That pain doesn’t go away," he said.

For four years, the Balaquits have marked family milestones, including the birth of a grandchild, without their loved one.

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Court exhibit photo of Kyle Pietz leaving a liquor mart the same day Eduardo Balaquit is believed to have been killed.

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Court exhibit photo of Kyle Pietz leaving a liquor mart the same day Eduardo Balaquit is believed to have been killed.

When Edward’s two-year-old daughter looks at pictures of the grandfather she has never met, she asks who he is.

"I’d like to picture how he’d interact with her, how he’d play with her and joke with her," said Edward. "He’s not around to experience or witness his first grandchild, and that’s its own kind of struggle for me."

As she grows up, he plans to tell her all about her grandfather and his dedication to his family.

"Everyone knows him as a hard-working man, and he definitely was. He was a family man," said Edward. "He missed out on things because he was working so much. He did that so this whole family would be less stressed and happy."

The Balaquits have taken comfort in the support they’ve received from family, friends and strangers, who’ve offered condolences and help.

"My family would like to thank everyone who’s tried to help. There’s a lot of thanks we want to give out," said Edward.

No one from the Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit was available for comment Monday.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.