New Brunswick

Richard Oland's killer was 'perfect target' for blood spatter, expert testifies

Richard Oland's killer was a "perfect target" for blood spatter, a bloodstain pattern expert testified Friday at Dennis Oland's murder retrial.

Dennis Oland, 51, is being retried on a charge of second-degree murder in his father's 2011 bludgeoning death

Bloodstain pattern expert Sgt. Brian Wentzell is now the head of the RCMP's forensic identification section in New Minas, N.S. (CBC)

Richard Oland's killer was a "perfect target" for blood spatter, a bloodstain pattern expert testified Friday at Dennis Oland's murder retrial.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Wentzell agreed with the statement put to him by lead defence lawyer Alan Gold during cross-examination.

Gold went on to ask whether the killer "should" have had spatter on them.

"There certainly could be," replied Wentzell.

"Should be?" pressed Gold.

"I would expect there should be," Wentzell conceded.

But how much, he couldn't say.

"It's possible that they did have a lot of spatter on them, but it's possible that they may not have had a lot of spatter on them as well," Wentzell said under questioning by lead Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot,

He has seen both scenarios in other bludgeoning deaths.

It's a "very dynamic event" and can be affected by a number of factors, he said, including the positions of the assailant and victim during the attack, the type of weapon used and sequence of the blows.

The court has heard that four of the stains found on the brown sports jacket Oland wore when he visited his father the night he was killed were blood.

Wentzell identified them Friday as being two on the right sleeve, one on the upper left chest and one on the back near the hem.

All four were three millimetres or less in size, he said.

Dennis Oland has maintained his innocence from the beginning and members of his extended family have stood by him. (CBC)

Oland, 51, is being retried on a charge of second-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of his father more than seven years ago.

The retrial is scheduled to resume in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

A jury found Oland guilty in 2015, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned the conviction in 2016 and ordered a new trial, citing an error in the trial judge's instructions to the jury.

Oland is the last person known to have seen his father alive when he visited him at his office on the evening of July 6, 2011.

The body of the 69-year-old multimillionaire was discovered in the office the next morning, face-down in a pool of blood. He had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

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      The jacket is a key piece of evidence in the Crown's case against Oland.

      He told police he was wearing a navy blazer when he visited his father, but security video and witness testimony showed he was wearing a brown sports jacket.

      The jacket was dry cleaned the morning after Oland was questioned by police and seized a week later from his bedroom closet.

      Subsequent testing confirmed the four areas of blood and DNA that matched the victim's profile, the Crown said during opening statements.

      On Friday, Wentzell told the court he couldn't say how the bloodstains got on the jacket.

      Because they were on absorbent fabric, they lacked the defined shapes he normally uses to determine whether a bloodstain is impact spatter, transfer from another bloody object or a drip, he said.

      Bloodstains could have pre-dated homicide

      The defence contends the bloodstains are the result of innocent transfer. The victim's secretary testified earlier in the trial that he had a skin condition that would sometimes cause his scalp to bleed and that he was a touchy-feely talker.

      Gold suggested a nose bleed or a cut were other possible examples. Wentzell agreed there was nothing inconsistent with the bloodstains being innocent transfer.

      Gold argued the blood could have been on the jacket for weeks or months before the homicide. Wentzell acknowledged he couldn't say how long the blood had there.

      He also agreed he couldn't say whether the bloodstains looked any different before or after the jacket was dry cleaned.

      The dry cleaners previously testified they didn't notice any stains on the jacket and didn't use any special treatments to remove bloodstains.​

      'Significant' blood

      The blood spatter at the Richard Oland homicide scene radiated roughly two metres to the north, west and east of the victim's upper body. One stain had travelled more than three metres. Another reached as high as 1.5 metres. (Court exhibit)

      Gold asked Wentzell about the application Saint John police used to obtain a search warrant for Oland's home and to seize the jacket. It indicated it was the opinion of Wentzell and the force's head of forensics that the assailant would have had "significant bloodstains (spatter) on their person."

      Wentzell told the court he didn't remember using the word "significant," but said it was possible he did.

      The information to obtain the search warrant also indicated police believed if the suspect had fled in a vehicle, transfer could occur.

      Wentzell said if the blood was still wet, it was possible it could transfer. If it was already dried, it was less likely, he said.

      No blood was found in Oland's car or on the Blackberry he used after leaving his father's office, the court has heard.

      None was detected on the shirt or pants police believe he was wearing that night.

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

      Gold contrasted the "miniscule" bloodstains on Oland's jacket with the amount of blood at the crime scene.

      There were "hundreds" of blood spatter stains radiating essentially 360 degrees, including one that travelled more than three metres.

      The attack was so ferocious, there was even "brain matter" on the back of the victim's sweater, Gold stressed.

      He suggested the killer would have been in close proximity to the victim, where the largest blood spatter stains were deposited.

      Wentzell agreed that was likely true if a short-handled weapon was used, but pointed out that if the assailant was moving around, it's possible he or she could have avoided much of the flying blood.

      He also noted there was one area, south of the body, that had less spatter than others. That could mean less blood was dispersed there and if it was the location of the killer, he or she could have avoided significant spatter.

      However, the "semi-void" could also mean the killer was standing there and blocked the blood from getting on the floor and walls, landing on him or her instead.

      The type of weapon used could also be a factor, said Wentzell. Based on the nature of the victim's injuries, police suspect a drywall hammer was the possible weapon.

      The hand-held tools typically have a bevelled hammer head with a waffle design "like a meat tenderizer" on one side and a sharp axe on the other side.

      If a hammer head strikes at an angle, it disperses blood in the opposite direction, said Wentzell. The autopsy photos he reviewed showed the blunt-force impressions weren't perfectly circular, suggesting the weapon was tilted, he said.

      The small surface area of a sharp edge, such as a hatchet-like blade, typically disperses blood to the sides, rather than back towards an assailant, he said.

      It's possible the initial blows from either type of weapon would disperse no or little blood, he added.