New Brunswick

Dennis Oland will testify at his murder trial

Dennis Oland will break his four years of silence and testify at his murder trial in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland.

Richard Oland's widow, Connie, will also testify, lawyer Gary Miller tells jury

Dennis Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. (CBC)

Dennis Oland will break his four years of silence on his father's slaying when he's called to the witness box at his murder trial being held in Saint John.

Prominent New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland, a member of the Order of Canada, was bludgeoned to death in July 2011. His son was charged with second-degree murder in the killing in November 2013, but has pleaded not guilty.

The accused's mother, sister, wife, uncle, and a close friend will also testify on his behalf, defence lawyer Gary Miller said Thursday during his opening statement to the jury at the Court of Queen's Bench trial.

Miller said the Crown has not satisfied the legal burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Oland committed this "dastardly deed."

"At the end of the day, you will see that the only verdict you can bring back is not guilty," he said.

The Crown wrapped up its 42-day case on Wednesday with a forensic scientist who testified the DNA extracted from three small bloodstains on Dennis Oland's jacket matched Richard Oland's.

The chances of it not being the victim's DNA are one in 20 quintillion, the expert said.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Miller said the defence will call its own experts, including a bloodstain pattern analyst, who testified Thursday that the killer would have had a "significant amount" of blood on him or her.

The body of Richard Oland, 69, was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John investment firm office on July 7, 2011, with hundreds of blood-spatter stains around him.

The multimillionaire had suffered 45 blunt and sharp force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found, but police have said it may have been a drywall hammer.

Dennis Oland, 47, was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his Canterbury Street office the night before.

He told police during a voluntary interview on July 7 that he was wearing a navy blazer when he visited his father, but security video of him earlier that day shows he was wearing a brown jacket.

The Hugo Boss jacket was taken to be dry cleaned on July 8 — the day after Saint John police told Oland he was a suspect in his father's death.

Not clear when Oland will testify

"If it can be said that there are ordinary murder cases, this is certainly not one of them," said Miller, referring to the "intense media scrutiny" Oland and his family have lived under for four years.

It was Oland's wish to testify in his own defence, said Miller. He did not indicate when Oland's testimony would begin, but it could be as early as next week.

Oland will "describe in considerable detail what he did and who he communicated with" on July 6-7, said Miller, warning the jurors it could be a bit tedious as they review Oland's cellphone records, text messages, email and security videos.

He also hinted the evidence will challenge the Crown's position that Oland was the last person to see his father alive.

Oland's wife, Lisa, will testify that it was she who took the blood-stained jacket and several other clothing items to be dry cleaned because he needed clothes for his father's visitation and funeral, said Miller.

Oland's sister, Jacqueline Walsh, who "saw him shortly after" he visited their father on the night in question, will also testify, he said.

Miller also dismissed the prosecution's two proposed motives of Richard Oland's extramarital affair and Dennis Oland's financial problems, saying neither situation was new and there's been no evidence of animosity between the father and son over either issue.

Miller urged the jurors to "apply [their] common sense in assessing all the evidence."

Would be 'significant amount' of blood on killer

Following Miller's opening statement, fellow defence lawyer Alan Gold called their first witness — Patrick Laturnus, a retired RCMP forensic specialist, who is now a consultant and instructor.

Laturnus was deemed an expert by the court, qualified to give opinion evidence about the size, shape, location and distribution of stains, as well as the interpretation of the physical events that caused them.

Patrick Laturnus, a bloodstain pattern analyst, was the first witness called by the defence on Thursday. (CBC)
He said he reviewed the crime scene photos and based on the blood spatter, determined at least some of the blows to Richard Oland's body were delivered while the victim was lying on the floor and the killer was standing over him.

Laturnus said the assailant would have had a significant amount of spatter on him or her.

It could be anywhere, "from head to toe," but likely primarily on their hands, face, and upper body, he said.

If Oland's brown sports jacket had been worn during the slaying, it would have had "so much blood" on it, it would have been visible in a photograph, despite its dark colour, said Laturnus.

Laturnus also said he would expect to see blood transfer and trace evidence of blood on anything the killer had touched.

The brown sports jacket seized from Dennis Oland's bedroom closet a week after his father's body was discovered had three blood stains and the DNA extracted from those areas matched his father's, the trial has heard. (Court exhibit)
The court has previously heard no blood was found in Dennis Oland's car, on his BlackBerry, or on the red reusable Sobeys grocery bag he reportedly had with him when he visited his father.

There was no evidence of any cleanup at the scene, Laturnus said.

During cross-examination, lead Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot referred to an article by a well-known bloodstain analyst about the absence of evidence not being evidence of absence.

He asked Laturnus if he could be wrong about the amount of blood that would have been on the assailant.

"No," replied Laturnus.

Veniot pointed out the lack of any blood trail leaving the crime scene. Laturnus said the killer's clothing would have had to be saturated with blood to leave a trail.

Veniot asked about the cross-hatching pattern found in the victim's blunt force wounds and whether that could have affected the blood spatter differently. Laturnus said he suspected it would.

Asked whether it's possible for a killer to touch items without leaving trace evidence of blood, Laturnus agreed it was possible.

The trial is in recess until Monday at 9:30 a.m. AT.