Jacket with blood on it was seized from Richard Oland's son
Dennis Oland's jacket and attached dry cleaning tag key evidence in homicide probe, documents reveal
A brown suit jacket with blood on it was seized from Dennis Oland’s home by Saint John police in the days following his father’s slaying, newly released court documents reveal.
Richard Oland, 69, a prominent businessman, was found dead in his uptown Saint John office on July 7, 2011.
No charges have been laid, but Saint John police Chief Bill Reid has repeatedly said he expects an arrest before the end of the year.
The redacted documents made public Friday by court order do not contain any information about whose blood it was on Dennis Oland's jacket or how it got there.
But they suggest the jacket — and a dry cleaning tag that was attached — are possibly “the most important part” of the two-year-old investigation.
“Evidence that was obtained from that jacket provided some valuable DNA evidence,” lead investigator Const. Stephen Davidson had testified behind closed doors on July 31, 2012, the documents show.
“New evidence has been revealed from the analysis … of that item,” Davidson had said. "That is our — one of our most important pieces of evidence we have in proving this case and taking it to trial."
The documents also suggest police, as of July 2012, did not have the weapon used to kill Richard Oland in their possession, or even know for certain what the weapon was.
“Well in our opinion, in my opinion, I guess, and what I’ve seen from the autopsy photos, it appears that it’s [redacted],” Davidson had said, referring to the “type of injuries” Oland had sustained and conclusions of a blood spatter expert.
“I wouldn’t say [redacted] although that hasn’t, you know, been determined … But that’s what it appears to be,” Davidson said.
Police have been unable to locate Richard Oland’s cellphone, which is what divers were searching for at Renforth Wharf the day after his body was discovered, the documents reveal.
A red reusable grocery bag is also a key piece of evidence in the case, according to the documents.
Dennis Oland was seen carrying such a bag into his father’s office on July 6, 2011, and a man matching his description was also seen carrying a similar bag and acting strangely later that day at Renforth wharf.
Additional information from Davidson’s closed-door testimony was made public on Friday after CBC News and Brunswick News applied to have the court transcripts released.
“In my view, many of the proposed redactions are overly broad,” provincial court Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson stated in his eight-page written decision.
“I would agree that ‘hallmark evidence’ may include other than the examples I set [in my previous decision], but it is not so elastic a concept as to include any information relating to the death of Mr. Oland,” he said.
Previously released warrants reveal police consider Oland’s son Dennis, 45, the prime suspect in the case and suggest a possible financial motive.
Dennis owed his father more than $500,000 and is described as being "on the edge financially."
The documents also reveal police believe Dennis lied to them about what clothes he was wearing the day his father was killed, based on what at least two witnesses have said and video surveillance of him earlier that day.
Dennis, who is the last known person to have seen his father alive, told police he had on a navy blazer, a blue and white collared dress shirt, khaki dress pants and dark brown dress shoes.
But Richard Oland’s long-time secretary, Maureen Adamson, said Dennis was wearing a brown jacket when he went to visit his father at his Far End Corporation business.
Adamson’s husband, who was parked outside the Canterbury Street office, waiting to drive her home, told police he saw someone matching Dennis's description entering Richard Oland's office building wearing a dark brown sports coat with lighter-coloured pants.
Video surveillance of Dennis’s workplace, CIBC Wood Gundy, earlier in the day shows him arriving and leaving wearing a brown sports jacket and khaki pants.
Dennis's wife, Lisa, had told police she did not see him when he got home that day. "He went straight upstairs and got changed," according to previously released documents.
There has been a pattern of behaviour in terms of the fact that this clothing was brought to the dry cleaner shortly after the murder occurred and for that reason, it becomes very important, if not the most important part of our investigation.- Const. Sean Rocca, Saint John Police Force
Dennis was unaware of the forensic findings related to his brown jacket, which was seized from the master bedroom men’s closet of his Rothesay home on July 14, 2011, Davidson had testified.
“In fact, other than … the investigational team, even other police officers aren’t aware of this,” he said.
The jacket was one of 57 items seized from Dennis Oland when police executed a search warrant at his Gondola Point Road home one week after his father's body was discovered.
Police were trying to keep information about the jacket and the yellow dry cleaning tag attached to it confidential, arguing it could compromise the investigation.
“At this point I don’t believe it’s well known to our suspect [Dennis] that a main focus of this investigation is the laundry — the fact that we’re focusing on a number of exhibits that were brought to be dry cleaned,” another investigator, Const. Sean Rocca, had testified during a closed-door hearing on July 31, 2012.
At least two other clothing items seized from his closet — a blue and white checkered men’s dress shirt and blue checkered men’s dress shirt — also had dry cleaning tags, the court documents show.
A receipt for VIP Dry Cleaners was also seized from the top right dresser drawer in Dennis’ bedroom.
“We believe that this receipt … speaks to the number of clothing [items] that had dry cleaner tags on them,” Rocca had testified.
“I think that, you know, there has been a pattern of behaviour in terms of the fact that this clothing was brought to the dry cleaner shortly after the murder occurred and for that reason, it becomes very important, if not the most important part of our investigation, and we need to protect that evidence and that those records at the dry cleaners aren’t destroyed or altered,” he said.
“Our intention is to execute a warrant and/or production order at this particular dry cleaners where these items of clothing were brought for dry cleaning within days after Mr. Oland’s murder,” said Rocca.
“And for that reason and because of the involvement with some private investigators in the past, our concern would be two-fold. One, we don’t want [Dennis] to know at this point that our investigation focuses on the dry cleaners — the purposes of any future interrogations — and two, we don’t want anybody to become aware of this evidence that may try to obstruct or interfere with the dry cleaners themselves,” he said.
Private investigators involved
Previously released documents suggested private investigators are somehow involved in the case and that their inquiries may have interfered with the Saint John Police Force’s investigation
It’s unclear who hired them or why, but the documents suggest a witness who was questioned by someone the individual believed to be a police officer became less co-operative with police afterward.
Dennis Oland’s lawyer, Gary Miller, had requested that any reference to private investigators in the court transcripts be redacted.
Miller referred to the private investigators during closed-door proceedings on Aug. 17, 2012.
“I certainly know there were private detectives … investigators looking around and interviewing people,” he had said.
“I don’t know if there were any other investigators involved, but I know that [redacted] and what they were doing and things of that nature as a result of information we had received with regard to people,” Miller had said.
“I, we would not be doing our jobs at this stage quite frankly if we just ignored information that was brought to our attention and said, ‘Oh well, we’ll just wait in case there’s a charge and we’ll cross-examine them at the trial.’ We want that information as soon as we can get it because the fresher it is in a witness's mind, the better it is,” he had said.
Miller later argued “the public would immediately assume that it was his client who had engaged them and perhaps draw unfavourable inferences,” according to the judge’s decision.
But Jackson said he could “conceive of no legal basis” for redaction.
“If the suggestion is that Mr. Miller’s client’s privacy interests, or ‘innocence at stake’ interests are at play, it is clear that some proof of impairment of those interests must be proffered,” he said.
“In this case there is at most a suggestion or inference of prejudice which is, in my view, insufficient to redact those words.”
Log book was at crime scene
Jackson also agreed to release testimony related to a log book, entitled The Island Camp, which was a record of attendance at a cottage.
“I agree with counsel for the media that simply obliterating all testimony on that subject is too broad,” he said.
The documents reveal the log book was at Richard Oland’s office the day he was killed.
Dennis had told someone at his father’s home, whose name has been redacted, that he planned to drop off the log book at the house.
His mother found it in the back hallway of the Rothesay home the following morning.
Dennis told his mother he had been at his father's office to pick up the log book the night before and that he had a good talk with him about family history, according to the documents.
Police had sought to have information related to the log book kept confidential, arguing it could compromise the investigation.
“It also speaks to the specific — you know, the reason why [Dennis] gave for being at the office and it moves into, you know, on the fringes of hallmark evidence of why he was there and what he was doing there and that type of thing,” Const. Rocca had said.
The log book was originally freely given to police, but that consent was later withdrawn and police subsequently obtained a search warrant on Nov. 15, 2011.
It was subjected to forensic testing, but no forensic evidence was found and it was later returned to its owner, whose identity remains redacted.
The judge adjourned his decision on whether to release any additional information from a search warrant and two production orders issued last fall.
“I regret that the process has taken considerably more time than I anticipated,” he stated in a letter to the lawyers representing the media outlets, members of the Oland family and the Crown.
He will deliver a decision by Oct. 25, he said.