Dennis Oland's family's lives will never be the same, his stepson told the Court of Queen's Bench on Thursday in a written statement.

"It deeply saddens me that the result of this case — regardless of what is to come in the future — has changed my family," wrote Andru Ferguson.

"It's hard to imagine fun times ahead without Dennis."

Ferguson and Oland's three children submitted character reference letters to the Saint John court for the judge's consideration in sentencing on Thursday.

Oland was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for the second-degree murder in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. He is appealing the conviction and will be seeking bail in Fredericton's Court of Appeal today, pending appeal.

Before imposing sentence, Justice John Walsh described the letters by Oland's children as "simply heart-wrenching." His children clearly "love him dearly," said Walsh calling it a "high tribute to their father's character."

All four children described Oland as being loving and supportive and urged the judge to impose the minimum 10 years before he becomes eligible to apply for parole.

'I don't want this to turn them into something less than they are.' - Dennis Oland about his children

The letters "brought tears to this old hard ass' eyes," defence lawyer Gary Miller told the courtroom.

He said Oland has expressed concern about the impact his criminal proceedings have had on his children over the years.

"I don't want this to turn them into something less than they are," Miller quoted Oland as having said, as some of his supporters in the packed courtroom cried softly.

Ferguson said merging two separated families can come with its challenges, but they have all grown close and he "couldn't ask for a better family."

"Before meeting Dennis I could only hope one day my mother would find someone else special she could be with and be happy with forever," wrote Ferguson, who is a young adult.

ns-hi-richard-oland-852

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)

"Having found Dennis who is kind, caring, supportive and loving, I couldn't be any happier for my mother, or to have such a great father."

Oland "has always been there to show me things and help me along the way when no one else would," he said.

Ferguson also refers to Oland's long-time community involvement in various committees, events and school teams. "He has always showed great character and led by example."

'Positive role model'

Oland's eldest daughter, Emily Oland, 19, says he has "provided the best life he could have possibly given" them.

"He has always tried to be a positive role model in our lives and has done so much for the community. My father has given us everything we could have asked for and more."

Oland's kindness has also extended to many others, she says, citing as an example how he helped get treatment for a close friend's father, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Oland's other daughter, Hannah, 17, and son, Henry, 15, also submitted letters to the court.

Several of Oland's extended family members also submitted "glowing" character references, the judge said.

They declined to submit victim impact statements, he said. Oland's family has stood by him from the beginning, maintaining his innocence.

'A credit to the Oland family'

Oland's uncle, Derek Oland, the executive chairman of Moosehead Breweries, called him "one of the most decent and kindest of men."

"Always a credit to the Oland family," he wrote.

 A total of 66 character references were submitted by family, friends, neighbours, businesses acquaintances and clergy. Oland's lawyer was "overwhelmed" by the show of support.

"I couldn't find three people to write a letter like this for me," joked Miller, prompting laughter from the courtroom and a smile from Oland.

"I beg your Lordship, give him the kind of sentence where the law allows him to get home as soon as possible."

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, but parole eligibility can range between 10 and 25 years, with the amount of time to be set by the judge.

The judge decided to follow the jury's unanimous recommendation and impose the minimum 10-year parole ineligibility for Oland.

It takes effect retroactively on Dec. 19, the day he was convicted and taken into custody.

Andru Ferguson's character reference letter

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Emily Oland's character reference letter

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