Richard Oland, 69, of the family-owned Moosehead Breweries, was discovered in a pool of blood in his Saint John investment firm office the morning of July 7, 2011. A medical expert testified Oland had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands.
It was the second time Dennis had faced a trial for the murder of his father. In 2015, his first trial ended with a jury finding him guilty of second-degree murder.
Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench told a packed courtroom Friday there were too many “missing puzzle pieces” to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to Morrison, there were several pieces of evidence that appeared to implicate Dennis in the murder, including the fact he was the last person to see his father alive and a brown jacket he wore during the visit had his father’s blood on it.
The judge also noted Oland had told police he was wearing a different jacket during the visit and had it dry-cleaned following his “misstatement” to police. The was also Richard Oland’s missing iPhone 4, which pinged off a tower in Rothesay at 6:44 p.m., when Dennis said he would have been in the area not far from his home.
Wait, There’s More: Dennis Oland found not guilty
However, he determined that given the nature of the bloody crime scene, there was insufficient physical evidence linking Oland to the death. And that the evidence suggesting Oland’s time of death was not conclusive.
“Despite extensive searches, no murder weapon was found or linked to the suspect,” Morrison said in his decision that was read in court. “Despite a bloody murder scene, careful examinations of Dennis Oland’s car, Blackberry, the shoes he was wearing and the grocery bag carried in and out his father’s office revealed no blood or other trace evidence.”
The judge accepted the fact there was blood on the jacket, but said the small number of stains — some just millimetres in size — were inconsistent with the crime scene. The prosecution theorized that Oland used something similar to a drywall hammer with both a sharp edge and a blunt end to beat his father to death.
The judge also tore into the Crown’s theory that the younger Oland, facing dire financial straits, had gone to his father’s office to ask for money and, after being refused, attacked his father.
“The Crown theorizes that Dennis Oland, consumed with rage, returned a few minutes later and murdered his father. Where did the murder weapon come from? Was it just coincidentally unavailable?” Morrison wrote.
“This bespeaks premeditation and does not fit with the Crown’s theory of the case: a crime of passion born of an arranged mind.”
Without establishing a motive, the judge said, determining guilt was like being asked to put a “jigsaw puzzle together without the benefit of seeing the picture on the puzzle box.”
“More than suspicion is required to convict a person of murder. Probable guilt is not enough,” Morrison said. “I have determined that the Crown has failed to establish a motive for Dennis Oland as the killer.”
“There are too many missing puzzle pieces to form a coherent portrait of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In short, I am not satisfied that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Dennis Oland who killed Richard Oland.”
As Morrsion returned a verdict of not guilty, Oland, 51, hugged his legal defence team — lawyers Alan Gold, Michael Lacy and James McConnell. Members of his family who have stood by Dennis throughout the almost decade-long ordeal openly wept with joy in the courtroom.
“Leave him in peace and let him come to the wonderful realization that it’s finally over,” Gold said during a press conference.
“Dennis lost his dad to a brutal murder eight years ago. The very same day that the body was found, before the police had even talked to Dennis, they were discussing putting 24 hours’ surveillance on Dennis, simply because he was the last known person to see his father.”
Gold said he hoped that now “the actual perpetrators” could be sought out and brought to justice.
The second trial was supposed to be a jury trial, but the discovery that a Saint John police officer who was helping the prosecution with jury selection used a database that was not permitted led to a mistrial, and the decision to proceed before judge alone.
— With files from the Canadian Press.