Juror discharged in Eduardo Balaquit manslaughter trial after testing positive for COVID-19

A jury trial for the man accused of manslaughter in the disappearance of Eduardo Balaquit had a delayed start Tuesday morning after one of the jurors tested positive for COVID-19.

The judge advised the jury that the juror who had tested positive for COVID-19 was being discharged. Court was delayed while the other jurors performed rapid COVID-19 tests, all of which came back negative.

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On Monday, court heard that another juror had tested positive prior to the trial starting, and an alternate juror was placed in.

Balaquit was last seen on June 4, 2018, when he left home to go to his cleaning job at Westcon Equipment on Keewatin Street.

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His van was later found at the business with a smashed window and his belongings still inside.

Balaquit’s body has never been found.

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In 2021, nearly three years after his disappearance, Winnipeg police announced Kyle Alexander James Pietz, 35, had been arrested in Saskatoon.

Pietz was charged with manslaughter in connection with the homicide and disappearance of Balaquit. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

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On Tuesday morning, the jury heard from two Winnipeg police officers, including Const. Christine Mazerolle, one of the first officers who arrived at Westcon Equipment the day after Balaquit didn’t return home from an evening shift, and a forensic identification specialist who assessed the scene.

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Court heard Balaquit’s silver Dodge Caravan was parked at a neighbouring business on Keewatin Street with the passenger side window smashed out.

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Inside, officers found Balaquit’s iPhone. The officers also told court they found several items on the ground outside the vehicle, including a phone charger cord, a blue tap and a piece of pipe.

Const. Sheri Nedohin, a forensic analyst with the Winnipeg Police Service, told court Westcon employees had alerted her to items that seemed “out of place” inside the business. Officers seized a utility knife, a roll of plastic wrap, and a sticky note that read “the building is next”.

The jury also heard from a witness who used be be colleague of Pietz’s at Westcon before Pietz stopped working there in May 2018.

The court heard that the coworker received two calls on June 3, 2018, from someone who claimed to be a client named Don, who wanted him to come into work on a Sunday to give him keys to a grader. The witness said he thought he recognized the caller’s voice as Pietz, but the caller denied.

The man told court he went to meet the client at Westcon on Sunday night. He said the client never showed up, but Pietz did, who allegedly claimed to be just driving by Westcon while delivering pizzas.

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The trial is expected to last six weeks.

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