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Murder of Richard Oland

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On July 7, 2011, the body of 69 year old businessman Richard Oland, previously a Vice President with Moosehead Brewery, was found in his office at the investment firm Far End Corp. on Canterbury street in Uptown Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Discovered by his personal assistant, Richard had been bludgeoned to death.

Contents

On November 13, 2013, Richard Oland's son, Dennis Oland, was officially charged with second degree murder. On September 16, 2015, his trial began, becoming the longest and most expensive trial in the history of Saint John, NB. Dennis Oland was found guilty by a jury on December 19. Throughout the high-profile court case, intimate details about the private lives of the entire family were revealed.

Dennis Oland was sentenced to life in prison, with a possibility of parole in 10 years, as recommended by the jury. His lawyers immediately began the appeals process, seeking the appellate judge to either overturn the guilty verdict, order a new trial, or enter a full acquittal in October 2016. The appeal was successful. Dennis Oland's conviction was overturned by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal on October 24, 2016.

Background

In 1941, Richard "Dick" Henry Oland was the second born son to Philip Warburton Oland and Mary Howard Oland, after the birth of his brother, Derek Oland, two years prior (1939). Derek and Richard were born and bred in Rothesay, the suburb community of Saint John's wealthy elite. Families living within Rothesay, such as the Olands, the Irvings, the McCains, and the Crosbys, are considered "old money," claiming some of Canada's highest incomes per capita.

Richard attended Rothesay Collegiate School, Regiopolis College, and the University of New Brunswick. Eventually, Richard went on to specialize his knowledge in biochemistry with Wallerstein Laboratories to obtain his Certificate of Brewing Technology, in anticipation of his career within the Oland family's sixth-generation dynasty, brewing Moosehead Beer.

Richard began courting Constance "Connie" Katherine Connell when she was 16 years of age, and in 1965, Richard and Connie wed. The couple gave birth to three children, including Elizabeth "Lisa" Oland (now Bustin), Jacequeline Lee Oland (now Walsh), and Dennis James Oland.

By 1980, Richard Oland was a Vice President of Moosehead Brewery and vied with his brother Derek, then the Executive Vice President, for the presidency in a bitter public feud and legal battles. Their father, P.W. Oland who was then president, decided to select Derek to succeed him, resulting in Richard ultimately leaving the brewery in 1981.

Starting from scratch, Richard found a niche in the Saint John business community with his development of three major enterprises - Kinghurst Estates Limited, Brookville Transport Limited, and Far End Corporation. Richard became an accomplished businessman, amassing many awards and a fortune of nearly $37 million. Oland was also in charge of organizing the 1985 Canada Summer Games.

Oland owned the investment firm Far End Corporation and made its premises his primary office space. Located at 52 Canterbury street of the historic Uptown district of Saint John, the 2nd floor office space was rented from building owner John Ainsworth. Ainsworth operated his own business, Printing Plus, from the 1st floor of the building, and rented out the 3rd floor to local bands to practice after office hours ended for the day. The morning of July 7, 2011, Richard was discovered dead in his office on Canterbury St.

Crime Scene

On July 7, 2011, the body of Richard Oland was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his Uptown Saint John office by his personal assistant, Maureen Adamson. Sgt. Mark Smith testified that Richard's office was "one of the bloodiest crime scenes of his career, with the most blows to a victim." The forensic pathologist, Dr. Ather Naseemuddin, counted 45 wounds to Richard's hands, neck, and head, during autopsy.Six of the 45 wounds were found on Richard's hands, likely due to Richard trying to protect himself from his attacker. These defensive wounds led to over 30 hair and fibre exhibits to be seized at autopsy for forensic examination, including 3 hairs found inside Richard's hands and tissue samples from under Richard's fingernails. The hairs could not be tested for DNA as they were lacking a root, and only Richard's DNA was found underneath his fingernails.

The attack continued after Richard was defenseless on the floor. Richard's skull was completely broken. The bones of his eyesockets were "like a cracked egg shell," possibly from him falling face-first into the floor. There were 14 fractures found in Richard's skull, with the skull pounded in so badly that it had a concave area spanning 10 cm in length, 7 cm across, and 2 cm deep. Portions of brain matter were found on Richard's back.

The attack had left Richard's blood on every single wall of his office. Spatter was seen on Richard's desk, computer, chair, filing cabinets, and on an empty pizza box in the garbage can. Blood had soaked through three layers of flooring, permeating the ceiling of Printing Plus, the office below. Police analysts testified "the person who created these injuries would have significant bloodstains/spatter on their person and would be expected to transfer blood stains to the surfaces of other objects the person came in contact with." Forensic analysts noted the blood pooling on the floor around Richard may not have occurred until after the attacker left the office, explaining why the scene contained few "transfer stains" and only one footprint that was never connected to a suspect.

Dr. Matthew Bowes, the physician who reviewed Dr. Nasseemuddin's autopsy report, believed Richard was alive for the duration of the attack. Both Naseemuddin and Bowes believed Richard only survived the attack for 5 to 10 minutes but was alive for all of his injuries. Some injuries were believed to have been caused by a sharp edged weapon, while other injuries were caused by blunt force indicating that Richard was killed by a weapon with two different edges, or two weapons were used. Bowes raised the possibility that a combat knife could have been a weapon. Sergeant Mike King testified he suspected a roofer's hatchet to be a weapon. Constable Stephen Davidson believed a weapon could have been a drywall hammer. No weapons were found at the crime scene, no weapons were entered as evidence at trial.

As the trial revealed, police had failed to protect the crime scene from contamination. Police used the office bathroom, where Galen McFadden's blood was later discovered, for two days before the bathroom was tested for evidence. There was a backdoor 3 steps away from where Richard's body was found, leading to an alleyway that could have been an exit. Police went in and out the main door, without gloves, for nearly a week before anyone noticed they should have tested the door for fingerprints. The footprint discovered by the forensics team had to be compared against police footwear, as several police officers, including the Deputy Chief Glen McCloskey, walked through the crime scene unauthorized and without protective gear on. McCloskey was later accused of suggesting that other officers lie under oath about his presence at the crime scene, and the Saint John Police Force is currently under investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission for corruption and a potential cover-up.

Police interviews

Shortly after being notified of the death, members of the Oland family, including Richard's wife Connie Oland, daughters Lisa Bustin and Jacqueline Walsh, and son Dennis Oland, arrived at the police station to give interviews and formal statements.

Connie said that on July 6, 2011, she and Richard were both at home until Richard received a call from Maureen Adamson at 9:50 am, reminding him of an appointment in his office with two insurance brokers at 10:00 am. Richard then left home for the office, and that was the last time Connie spoke with him. Connie said it was not uncommon for Richard not to return to their residence at night.

Lisa Bustin, Dennis's sister, was interviewed alone. Bustin said that her father could have had anyone as an enemy, as he was "a hard-nosed businessman--pure business--and if you worked hard you would get his respect."

Dennis Oland's interview lasted over five hours and was separate from those of other family members. Video footage showed Dennis providing Cst. Stephen Davidson with a written and verbal account of his activities for the day prior, July 6, 2011. He believed that his father had high expectations of him, but that Dennis was not meeting those expectations.

Davidson told Dennis that cameras could verify whether or not he was telling the truth about his presence at his father's office, and asked Dennis what clothing he had worn the day before. Dennis said he was wearing "these pants, these shoes, a blue dress shirt, and a navy blazer."

At the half-way mark on the video footage, Davidson informed Dennis that he was the primary suspect in his father Richard Oland's murder. Davidson read Dennis his rights, and Dennis phoned attorney Bill Teed, who told Dennis to stop talking to police. Davidson said "there is absolutely no question in my mind that you did this, and I want to know why," and told Dennis that his opportunity to speak with a lawyer was past. Dennis repeated that he did not murder his father.

Police allowed Dennis to leave just after 11:00pm without making an effort to seize the clothes Dennis said he had worn the day before.

Robert McFadden, in his interview, conducted by Cst. Stephen Davidson, said he had left the office at 5:30 pm with his son, Galen McFadden, as was usual. Robert McFadden said his job was to manage Richard's finances, and that Richard had asked that a trust fund be set up for his heirs. After Richard's death, McFadden said he would run two of Richard's three companies (Kingshurt Estate Ltd and Far End Corporation).

McFadden said that upon Connie's death, the trust would be dissolved, and the remaining assets would be distributed to Richard's three children, Dennis Oland, Jacqueline Walsh, and Lisa Bustin. He said that after Connie's death, Dennis's portion of his inheritance would be reduced by $538,000, with $269,000 going to each of Dennis's sisters, covering the expenses of his divorce, which had been paid for by Richard, and allowing Dennis to retain the family home.

Robert McFadden and Maureen Adamson testified that Richard did not leave the office between arriving in the morning and Maureen leaving at 5:45 PM, and that Richard was adamant that alcohol not be kept in the office. Toxicology reports from the medical examiner indicate that Richard had some alcohol in his blood.

Suspects

Two weeks after the death, police said that they were convinced Richard was murdered by someone he knew.

Since July 2011, the McFaddens have shared information to advance the investigation. In 2012, nearly a year after the murder, Galen McFadden gave a sample of his DNA. Robert McFadden declined to give a DNA sample. Forensic testing in 2012 reveal that blood matching the DNA profile of Galen McFadden was found on the curtains of Richard's office, in the bathroom sink, and on a paper towel in the bathroom garbage can. One year after Galen's blood was found at the crime scene, officers covertly obtained Robert McFadden's DNA from a straw at a restaurant. The police forensics unit concluded the three areas where Galen's was blood found were unrelated to Richard's murder. No results concerning Robert's DNA were released.

Forensic analysis

Sgt. Mark Smith, head of the forensics unit of the Saint John Police Force, said he spent 3 days following the July 14, 2011 search of Dennis's home doing a "very thorough search" of Dennis's car. Ten different areas of the car were swabbed, including the driver's side door inside latch and handle, the trunk release button, the headlight switch, signal light switch, the steering wheel, the emergency brake, and seats of the car. The swabs were sent away on July 21, 2011, for forensic testing at the RCMP crime lab in Nova Scotia, but no blood or DNA was detected through these tests, either.

Smith did not find blood or DNA in the laces, stitching, or tread of any of the 6 pairs of shoes seized from Dennis's home, nor in the red reusable grocery bag Dennis had used to carry genealogy books into Richard's office on July 6, 2011. Smith didn't find any blood in the keys of Dennis's Blackberry cell phone, and Richard's DNA was not found anywhere on the phone.

For 4 hours on November 9, 2011, and 1 hour on November 17, 2011, Cst. David MacDonald visually inspected Dennis's brown jacket for blood, identifying 5 "reddish" spots, invisible to the naked eye, that required testing by the RCMP forensics lab in Nova Scotia. The jacket is sent to the RCMP lab on November 25, 2011, after the warrant for police seizure of the jacket had expired. Four spots on the jacket are confirmed to be blood that matches Richard's DNA - two spots on the outside right sleeve of the jacket, one spot on the outside upper left chest of the jacket, and one spot on the outside back bottom hem near the center of the jacket.

Charges

In November 2013 Dennis Oland was charged with second degree murder for the death of his father. Police stated that no one else would be charged. Dennis entered a plea of "not guilty." On November 18, 2013, Justice Hugh McLellan of the New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench granted Dennis bail on a $50,000 surety, paid by Dennis's uncle (Richard's brother) Derek Oland, the executive chairman of Moosehead Breweries. Dennis was also ordered to surrender his passport and advise the Saint John Police if he planned to travel outside of the province.

Preliminary inquiry

Provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc presided over the preliminary inquiry on December 12, 2014. He referred to the inquiry as a "screening mechanism" to review all of the evidence and rule whether or not he felt the case against Dennis Oland was strong enough to warrant a trial. The preliminary inquiry ultimately spanned 37 days.

Crown Prosecutor John Henheffer said that Dennis may have had a financial motive to murder his father, and that Dennis may have asked his father for more money but was denied by Richard, triggering Dennis's murderous rage.

LeBlanc told the Crown they had "failed to establish a reason for Dennis Oland to kill his father" as Connie, Richard's wife, received the $37 million inheritance, not Dennis. He also said the Crown had no evidence showing that Dennis asked for money or that being denied money would cause Dennis to be violent against his father.

Cell phone records were submitted showing Richard's iPhone, missing since the murder, had "pinged" off of a Rothesay tower at 6:44 pm on July 6, 2011, after Dennis left Richard's office, and near the location Dennis said he had stopped after visiting his father. A Rogers Communications analyst, from the cell service provider, testified that the 6:44 pm "ping" on July 6, 2011, was the last time Richard's iPhone was seen on the Rogers network. On July 9, 2011, the Rogers Communications computer system received a "roaming error," indicating the phone was not destroyed on July 9.

LeBlanc said that "quite surprisingly" Richard's cell phone company had shown Richard's phone to still be functioning 3 days after his murder. He said he was not satisfied with the cell phone information, saying the records and test calls done by police did not provide sufficient evidence that the phone was "anywhere near that tower." He said "a jury could conclude Richard Oland's cell phone was outside Canada on July 9."

Maureen Adamson, Richard's personal assistant, testified that Dennis had greeted her upon his arrival at the office, where she was preparing to go home for the evening, and that Richard gave Dennis a "very friendly reception" at their meeting. She said Dennis was wearing a brown jacket when visiting his father. Forensic reports indicated the brown jacket contained 4 microscopic blood drops in the fabric, with DNA matching Richard or Derek.

LeBlanc said that Adamson's testimony "would allow a jury to conclude as to an absence of animosity." The jacket evidence was a bit more confusing for LeBlanc.

The Crown said the brown jacket was dry cleaned to cover up the murder. The Defence said the jacket was laundered by the wife because the Olands had visitation and funerals to attend, since Dennis's father was deceased.

LeBlanc indicated he felt the police presumed Dennis's guilt too quickly; "this conclusion on their part was totally unjustified and indeed irrational. The police merely had a hunch, and an unsubstantiated one at that." He asked why Dennis would keep a blood-stained jacket, but dispose of the murder weapon and iPhone. He also questioned why Dennis would keep the cleaning tag on after being told he was a suspect, along with the dry-cleaning receipt and his other clothing from the night of the murder did not contain any blood.

He said Dennis's behaviour after Richard's murder "appears to be inconsistent with the behaviour expected from someone who committed a crime of extreme violence."

LeBlanc agreed that Dennis had the opportunity to kill his father, he had his father's DNA on the brown jacket he was wearing, the brown jacket had been dry cleaned after Dennis was informed he was a suspect, he told the police he was wearing a navy blazer, and there were no signs the murder arose from a robbery or forced entry.

LeBlanc committed Dennis Oland to stand trial, and placed a publication ban over all of the contents of the preliminary inquiry, until after the trial verdict in December 2015.

Trial and conviction of Dennis Oland

Justice Jack Walsh, the former prosecutor in the trial of Allan Legere, presided over the trial for Second degree murder. Walsh reviewed the admissibility of a number of evidence items submitted to the Crown by police prior to the murder trial As the largest jury pool in New Brunswick history, jury selection was held in the nearby hockey arena. The case was very highly publicised in the area, with some concerns over the ability to have a fair trial.

About five thousand prospective jurors were summoned from Saint John and Kings counties. 16 jurors were empanelled: 12 jurors with 4 alternates. Beginning on September 16, 2015, the Dennis Oland trial was the longest in the province's history at 65 days in length.

The Court excluded a number of items from evidence due to police improprieties, including dishonest applications for search warrants and unlawful search and seizure.

Dennis Oland was convicted of second degree murder in December 2015 and sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for at least 10 years.

Appeal

On October 24, 2016, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal threw out Dennis Oland's conviction on the basis that "the trial judge had erred in his instructions to jury on a 'key piece of the evidential puzzle' — whether Oland had 'lied' to police about what he was wearing the night they believe his multimillionaire father was killed," according to CBC News. The appeals panel ordered a new trial. Before a new trial was scheduled, the Crown attorneys said they would ask the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal the ruling; the defense said it might request a full acquittal from the same court.

New Brunswick Police Commission

The Provincial Police Commission launched an investigation into the mishandling of the Oland murder by the Saint John Police Force after the trial was completed. Deputy Chief Glen McCloskey was also being investigated for his conduct.

According to Maclean's magazine, the officers' "controversially—and almost comically—sloppy sleuths helped to explain the lack of evidence. While working on the crime scene, officers used the bathroom for two days before it could be tested for blood or fingerprints, and they couldn’t always remember what they had touched around the office with bloodied gloves. The blood spatter expert didn’t arrive from Halifax until four days after the murder, by which time the body had been removed and spatter had dried and flaked. Officers touched the back door before testing it for fingerprints, didn’t interview some witnesses for 18 months, and didn’t photograph the back alleyway until three years after the crime". Deputy Chief Glen McCloskey was cleared after an investigation by Halifax police and he will not be charged with any criminal offence.

References

Murder of Richard Oland Wikipedia


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