Dennis Oland was deeply in debt and on the edge financially when he killed his very rich father “in a rage” over money, prosecutors said on the opening day of Mr. Oland’s new trial.
The Crown was the first to outline its case on Wednesday as the retrial of Mr. Oland for the second-degree murder of his father, Richard Oland, finally began before Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench.
“The evidence will support, beyond reasonable doubt, that Dennis Oland killed his father,” Crown prosecutor Jill Knee told the Saint John court.
The defence argument was equally dramatic, insisting the circumstantial case is like a jigsaw puzzle, but the prosecution is missing pieces and the ones it has do not all fit. The court was shown security-camera footage from the evening of July 6, 2011 – the day Richard Oland was killed – that shows a calm and collected Dennis Oland shopping with family members.
“Would even a professional killer be so calm and normal after such a brutal, bloody, bashing murder?” defence lawyer Alan Gold asked.
Richard Oland, 69, a Saint John businessman and member of the prominent Maritime beer-brewing family, was struck 45 times, mostly on the head, with a weapon that has never been identified or found. He was found lying in a pool of blood in his Saint John office on the morning of July 7, 2011.
The prosecution told the court Mr. Oland was worth more than $30-million when he died. His only son, Dennis, was deeply in debt and “living on the edge financially.”
He is the last known person to have seen his father alive.
The retrial of Mr. Oland, 50, a former financial adviser, was ordered in 2016, when the New Brunswick Court of Appeal set aside his conviction following a jury trial in 2015. On Tuesday, a mistrial was declared in the second jury trial because of irregularities in jury selection and the trial now is proceeding by judge alone.
So, for the third time in his life, Mr. Oland was arraigned for the murder of his father on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. Mr. Gold said Mr. Oland will be testifying in his own defence during the trial, as he did during the first trial.
“You will hear him tell you, ‘I am innocent, I did not kill my father,’” Mr. Gold told the judge.
Maureen Adamson, Richard Oland’s former executive assistant, was the first witness at the trial. She discovered her boss’s body on the morning of July 7, 2011.
“A vile odour hit me,” she told the court, recalling her entrance to the office.
“I could see these legs on the floor and this upsetting odour. The air conditioner was still on when I saw those legs. I reacted very quickly and went back down the stairs to get someone.”
Mr. Oland’s battered body was found by his desk.
Ms. Adamson also provided insight into Mr. Oland’s lifestyle. She said her duties included making travel arrangements for the multimillionaire, who enjoyed racing yachts, skiing and fishing. She said he was having a new yacht built in Spain.
Ms. Knee touched on several key elements of the prosecution’s case, including outlining a possible financial motive for the killing. She also said the relationship between father and son was “strained,” but Mr. Gold said that was a description provided by police, not by Dennis Oland.
“While publicly, Richard Oland may have been known as generous, at home it was a very different story,” Ms. Knee said, adding that his wife, Connie, was kept on a strict $2,000-a-month budget.
“As time went on, the relationship became more of a business relationship than one of father and son.”
Among other things, Dennis Oland owed his father money and had bounced a payment cheque shortly before meeting with him on July 6, 2011. However, it is not known what the two discussed during their private meeting, alone in Richard Oland’s office, and the defence countered that debt was not a major worry for the son.
Mr. Gold said the Oland murder trial is distinguished by its “absence of evidence.”
“There is missing, incriminating evidence,” Mr. Gold said.
Among that missing evidence is the lack of clear blood evidence that would point to Dennis Oland as the killer, the defence lawyer said.
Key blood evidence is on a brown jacket Mr. Oland was wearing when he visited his father on the day of the killing. He told police he was wearing a navy jacket, but Mr. Gold said he made an “honest mistake” and was in fact wearing a brown jacket.
The Crown says four areas of blood staining were found on the jacket that match the DNA profile of Richard Oland, but Mr. Gold said the areas – he thinks there are only three – were “minuscule” and not what would be expected from such a bloody killing.
Dennis Oland sent the jacket to the cleaners after the murder and before it was seized by police during a search in 2011.
Mr. Gold said there was no blood found in the car Mr. Oland was driving or on his cellphone or on other items in his possession that day.
“The blood spatter was 360 degrees around the body at considerable distances,” Mr. Gold said, showing the court a photo of the bloody crime scene. There was no evidence the killer cleaned up at the scene.
Other evidence touched on by the prosecution and the defence included the fact Richard Oland was having an extramarital affair, a situation prosecutors said further strained the father-son relationship. Mr. Gold, however, said that although Dennis Oland was unhappy about the affair, he had known about it for quite some time.
Prosecutors said the only thing taken from Richard Oland’s office on the day of the murder was his cellphone. It pinged off a tower in Rothesay at 6:44 p.m. on the evening of July 6, just a few minutes after Dennis Oland said he left his father’s office and made his way to Rothesay, a community on the outskirts of Saint John where he lives.
Mr. Gold said there is no evidence as to why Mr. Oland would have taken his father’s cellphone and the cell tower evidence is unreliable.
The trial will continue on Thursday.