Dennis Oland was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday afternoon in connection with the death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland, more than two years ago.
Oland, 45, made a brief appearance in Saint John provincial court for the charge to be laid. He was arrested on Tuesday afternoon.
No plea was entered. Nov. 19 was set aside to select a date for a preliminary inquiry, which will determine if there's enough evidence to proceed to a trial.
Oland is expected to remain in custody until at least the Nov. 19 hearing. His defence lawyer, Gary Miller, did not raise the issue of a bail hearing and declined to comment following the proceedings.
Oland appeared tired and dishevelled sitting in the prisoner's box after spending the night in lockup. He was wearing a baggy grey sweatshirt.
He looked straight ahead, but did glance over at some of his relatives who filled the first two rows, including his mother, Constance, and his wife, Lisa.
When asked by provincial court Judge Marco Cloutier if he understood the charge of second-degree murder, Oland nodded and quietly replied, "Yes, sir."
Saint John police Chief Bill Reid informed the media of the charge against Oland at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
Died from 'repeated blows'
Richard Oland was found dead in his uptown office on July 7, 2011 at age 69.
He died after he received "repeated blows" to his body, the chief told reporters, revealing for the first time details about Oland's death.
He declined to comment on a murder weapon, saying it is now evidence before the court.
Dennis Oland was the last known person to see his father alive at his Far End Corporation office on Canterbury Street on July 6, according to previously released documents.
When police asked Dennis Oland what happened that day, he said: "Until I went over to his office, it was a very typical day."
If the case goes to trial and the Crown proves beyond a reasonable doubt he is guilty, he will face a minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Arrest OK needed 'massaging' of file
Police decided to charge Dennis Oland with second-degree murder in consultation with the Crown, the chief told reporters.
He said they didn't have enough evidence to lay a charge of first-degree murder, which requires proof of "planning and deliberation."
The Crown gave police approval to arrest Dennis Oland about three weeks ago, after some "massaging of the file," said Reid.
New Brunswick is one of only three provinces with pre-charge screening, which means the Crown has to give its approval before any charges can be laid.
So it's up to the Crown to decide whether there is enough evidence to have a reasonable probability of a conviction.
Investigators had met with the Crown back in November 2012 and the prosecutors had requested "a multitude of things," including additional interviews and forensics before agreeing to laying a charge, Reid said.
The officers continued to work on the file and when they met with the Crown again in October, everything the Crown asked for and expected was there, he said, commending his investigational team.
Police did not feel any time pressure to make an arrest in the two-year-old case, he said. "We were in no hurry to make a mistake."
It was a complicated investigation with very little evidence in terms of witnesses, he said, comparing it to "putting together a mosaic."
"It was always process-driven on the forensic side, whether it was tech crimes, it was audits, it was DNA — we would get a little piece of evidence that would direct us in an area, we'd have to get another piece of evidence to keep going. So we built a case from nothing essentially."
Reid said there is some sense of relief among the investigators that a charge has been laid. But he noted there's still the whole court process to go through, which could take quite some time.
He does not expect any other charges to be laid against Oland or for anyone else to be charged in the case, he said.
"These investigations are certainly fluid and we could receive some information at the end of the day that would make us look at someone else or others, but as it stands today, our investigation is pointing clearly to one individual, Dennis Oland," Reid said.
"If there is other information that we receive along the way we'd certainly entertain that as well, but I don't perceive that coming."
Dennis was arrested in Rothesay on Tuesday at about 3:30 p.m., said Reid. Officers went out looking for him, spotted his vehicle and took him into custody without incident, he said.
'I knew it wasn't right'
Previously released search warrants revealed two men heard noises coming from Richard Oland's office the night he was killed. Anthony Shaw and John Ainsworth were working downstairs.
Shaw told police he heard six or seven "exceptionally loud, quick pounding thumps." He described the noise as being similar to banging on a wall.
John Ainsworth described the noise to police as "shuffling." The sounds seemed to emanate from one area of Oland’s office, Ainsworth said.
No other details about how Oland died have been made public. They are considered so-called hallmark evidence that only the killer or killers would know.
A woman reported seeing a man matching Dennis Oland’s description acting strangely at Renforth Wharf that night between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to the documents.
The well-dressed man, who was walking briskly, stopped at the beginning of the wharf, picked something up, went to the end of the wharf, and sat down.
He then took something red out of a bag, wrapped the object he had picked up, put it in the bag, then walked briskly back and drove away in a silver car, Barbara Murray, a woman who was in the area, told police.
"I knew it wasn’t right," Murray said. The way he was walking made her nervous, she said. "There was a purpose to what he was doing, a real purpose."
Dennis Oland told police he had stopped at the wharf that day, on his way home. He said he went there to see if his children were swimming.
His extended family is standing by him. They did not speak to the media on Wednesday outside the courtroom, but Derek Oland — Richard Oland's brother and Dennis' uncle — issued a statement on Tuesday saying they believe he is innocent and that they will support him and his family through these legal proceedings.