New Brunswick

Richard Oland died from 40 blows to head, murder trial hears

Richard Oland died after suffering 46 "sharp and blunt force" blows to his body, 40 of them to his head and neck, the jury at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John heard on Wednesday.

Blood with victim's DNA profile found on jacket of son, Dennis Oland, who is accused in 2011 death

Dennis Oland trial begins

7 years ago
Duration 1:53
The second-degree murder trial of Dennis Oland got underway in Saint John on Wednesday, more than four years after his father was killed.

Richard Oland died after suffering 46 "sharp and blunt force" blows to his body, 40 of them to his head and neck, the jury at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John heard on Wednesday.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
The prominent businessman was killed "in a rage," lead Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot suggested in his opening remarks, noting the injuries were "way beyond" what was required to cause his death.

"Whatever faults and shortcoming he had, he did not deserve to die in such a gruesome manner."

The body of the 69-year-old was discovered in his uptown investment firm office "face down in a pool of blood" on July 7, 2011.

Dennis Oland, 46, his only son, had visited him there the night before and was the last known person to see him alive, said Veniot.

Earlier that day, Richard Oland had a meeting at his Far End Corporation office about his life insurance policy, the courtroom heard. "Little did [he] know … that the life insurance policy proceeds were about to be paid out," said Veniot.

Richard Oland's investments were worth about $37 million at the time, his long-time secretary, Maureen Adamson, testified.

Accused was 'on the edge financially'

Meanwhile, Dennis Oland was "on the edge financially," after going through a divorce, according to the Crown, who described the relationship between the father and son as being "more like a client and banker."

Dennis Oland was two months behind in making monthly interest payments of $1,666.67 on a $500,000 loan from his father, and his $27,000-limit credit card and $163,000 line of credit were both already "maxed out," said Veniot.

He had monthly child and spousal support payments of $4,233 to make, plus all of his other living expenses and had asked his employer, CIBC Wood Gundy, for an advance on his salary in June, according to Veniot.

Adamson testified that Dennis Oland paid his father through a series of post-dated cheques and she had emailed him on May 24 to ask him to send more. When she got them on June 28, he asked her to hold off on cashing the first one for about a week. That cheque later came back marked NSF, for insufficient funds, she said.

"This was the burden carried by Dennis Oland when he went to visit his father," the Crown said, as he outlined the prosecution's case for the jury. He was "living beyond his financial means."

Upset about father's affair

Dennis Oland was also upset about the extramarital affair his father was having with a woman Veniot identified as being Diana Sedlacek. "Dennis did not approve," and had once described the affair as a "family concern," the Crown told the jury.

Veniot said word had started to get out about the affair and Dennis had asked his father's friend, Robert McFadden, to talk to him about it. "You need to tell Dick people know," Veniot recounted of the conversation.

Dennis Oland arrives in court on Wednesday accompanied by his mother, Connie. The extended Oland family had stood by him throughout the legal proceedings. (CBC)
Despite a lengthy police investigation, no murder weapon or weapons were ever found, said Veniot.

The only thing missing from Richard Oland's office was his iPhone. His Rolex watch was still on his wrist, his wallet was still there, along with the keys to his BMW, which was parked outside, and several computers, cameras and other electronic equipment, said Veniot, suggesting that robbery was not the motive.

There was also no sign of a break-in, he said.

Jacket discrepancy

Veniot said Dennis Oland was interviewed by police on July 7 and told them he had been wearing a navy jacket when he visited his father, but security surveillance showed he was actually wearing a brown sports jacket.

The next morning, several items of Oland's clothing were dropped off at a drycleaner, including two sports jackets.

On July 14, when police executed a search warrant at Oland's home on Gondola Point Road in Rothesay, a brown jacket with a drycleaning tag still attached was seized from his bedroom closet.

The jacket had four areas of blood on it and the DNA profile matched that of Richard Oland, said Veniot.

Anyone is capable of doing bad things.- P.J. Veniot, prosecutor

"Anyone is capable of doing bad things," said Veniot as Dennis Oland and members of his extended family looked on.

"Difficult financial circumstances might point one towards a path one might never expect."

The defence team did not make an opening statement on Wednesday.

But the agreed statement of facts submitted to the court at the beginning of the proceedings said only that Richard Oland is the victim and that his death occurred on or about July 6, 2011. 

1 juror unable to serve

Dennis Oland pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder last week during the first day of jury selection.

Fourteen jurors and two alternates were selected instead of the normal 12-member panel because the trial is scheduled to last 65 days, increasing the chances someone will get sick or be unable to serve for some other reason.

On Wednesday, just as the high-profile trial began, Justice John Walsh informed the jury that one of the members, identified only as Juror No. 4, was unable to serve.

One of the alternates has now been deemed a juror and the other alternate, who was no longer needed, was discharged by the judge.

The remaining 14 jurors will sit through all of the evidence and arguments, but only 12 of them will deliberate and give a verdict, said Walsh.

The extras will be eliminated by a random draw, he said. "Nobody knows who will be the final 12, so all of you must pay close attention." 

He also told them to focus only on what they hear in court and to avoid any media coverage.

The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the judge said, stressing that the onus is on the Crown to prove its case. "It's not Dennis Oland's job to prove he is innocent."

It's also not enough to think he probably did it, Walsh said. It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. "He starts the trial with a clean slate."

"You alone decide the facts," he said, urging the jurors to make their decision "without sympathy, prejudice or fear."