A bloodstained jacket, a missing cell phone, a multitude of police errors and the bludgeoned body of one of the wealthiest men in New Brunswick – Crown prosecutors are concluding the evidence portion of their case against Dennis Oland.
Over the past 39 days, prosecutors have laid out circumstantial evidence which they say points to Oland, 51, as the killer of multimillionaire Richard Oland on the evening of July 6, 2011, during a private visit at the elder Oland’s Saint John office.
“There’s no question that Richard Oland was murdered on July 6, 2011. The one major issue to be decided is whether it was Dennis Oland who committed this murder,” Crown prosecutor Jill Knee said in her opening statement at the trial.
Final evidence for the prosecution on Friday included testimony from blood and DNA analysts who identified four small bloodstains on the jacket Dennis Oland was wearing when he visited his dad on the day of the murder. Richard Oland’s DNA profile was found within three of the bloodstains.
But defence lawyer Alan Gold said during cross examination of the forensic experts that there are limitations to the blood and DNA evidence – there is no way to know when or how they came to be on the jacket.
“We can’t say when DNA was deposited, how it was deposited, the order in which it was deposited or how long it was there,” Thomas Suzanski, a forensic specialist from the RCMP crime lab in Ottawa, said in his testimony.
Suzanski’s evidence, like that of several other witnesses, was presented to the court by replaying video from Oland’s first second-degree murder trial in 2015. He was found guilty by a jury in 2015, but the verdict was set aside on appeal and the new trial ordered. The current trial is before judge alone.
The Crown and defence agreed to use some videotaped testimony to speed up the lengthy trial.
The most contentious portion of the Crown’s case involved the investigation of Richard Oland’s murder by the Saint John police department.
The first few weeks of the trial included admissions from senior officers that insufficient measures were taken to protect the crime scene. The court heard about officers visiting the scene to view Oland’s body as though it was a tourist attraction. Few of the visiting officers wore protective gear.
As well, a former deputy police chief, Glen McCloskey, was accused by an officer of attempting to have him alter his testimony to conceal the fact the senior officer was at the scene. McCloskey denied the allegation, but admitted he viewed the body a second time purely out of “professional curiosity.”
Defence lawyers also argued that police did not sufficiently investigate a possible back door escape route from the crime scene and there was a rush to judgment in deciding Dennis Oland was the prime suspect just hours after the discovery of his father’s body on July 7, 2011.
The Crown laid out evidence suggesting that money was the motive for the killing. Prosecutors said Dennis Oland was on the edge financially when he visited his father on the day of the murder.
He had previously borrowed heavily from what a defence lawyer once called “the bank of daddy” and was making interest-only payments to his father on a loan of more than $500,000. One of his cheques had bounced shortly before his visit to the office on the day of the killing.
Other key evidence in the prosecution case included Richard Oland’s missing cell phone – the only item taken from the crime scene.
Cell phone records indicate the missing phone received its last message at 6:44 p.m. on the day of the murder. Experts told the court it pinged off a tower in Rothesay, on the outskirts of Saint John.
Dennis Oland told police he left his father’s office at about 6:30 p.m. that day and immediately headed to his home in Rothesay.
The phone, like the weapon used in the killing, has never been found.
The stage now is set for the defence portion of the Oland trial, expected to begin in early March. Gold already has told the court that Dennis Oland will testify in his own defence, as he did in his first trial.
© 2019 The Canadian Press