New Brunswick

Oland murder blood stain analysis 'limited' by delay, expert testifies

A blood stain expert who was asked to assist the Saint John Police Force with the Richard Oland murder investigation says his abilities were "limited" by the amount of time that had passed before he was called.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Wentzell arrived at Richard Oland crime scene 4 days after body discovered, trial hears

RCMP Sgt. Brian Wentzell divided Richard Oland's office into 10 areas, labelled A-J, to be able to refer to the "hundreds" of blood spatter stains more easily. (Court exhibit)

A blood stain expert who was asked to assist the Saint John Police Force with the Richard Oland murder investigation says his abilities were "limited" by the amount of time that had passed before he was called.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Wentzell says he arrived at the crime scene on July 11, 2011 — four days after the prominent businessman's bludgeoned body was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his office on Canterbury Street.

By that time, Oland's body had been removed, several people had been in and out of the office, and some items had been moved, including Oland's desk, a chair, a backpack and some papers, said Wentzell, who is based in New Minas, N.S.

That put him at a disadvantage, he testified Thursday morning at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial.

Dennis Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, Richard Oland. (CBC)
Bloodstain pattern analysis is best "when the body is still present and things are not disturbed," said Wentzell.

For example, there could be evidence on the body that's lost before the autopsy and there could be stains created if the blood is still wet when the body's removed.

"So you are limited in your interpretation."

There was also "a lot of alteration to the blood," due to the timeframe, said Wentzell. It was dry and "flaking upward," "different than if I had been there initially."

But he had photographs Sgt. Mark Smith, the head of the local forensic identification unit, had taken before the body was removed, and autopsy photos to work with and consider in his analysis, he said.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Richard Oland, 69, suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands, the court has heard.

Dennis Oland, 47, who was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his office the night before, has pleaded not guilty in his death.

No weapon was ever found.

The pool of blood around the victim's body measured 85 centimetres by 100 centimetres, said Wentzell.

There were also "hundreds" of blood spatter stains radiating around the body, including one that was more than three metres away.

Wentzell seemed to trace many of the blood stains to two main points of origin  — the seating area in front of Oland's desk, and the area on the floor where his body was located.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy previously testified that Oland's injuries would have been "rapidly fatal," and that many of them would have been inflicted after Oland was already lying on the ground, defenceless.

Wentzell also found smear-like "swipe" and "wipe" transfer patterns to the left of Oland's upper body, which had blood spatter on top them, indicating the spatter came later — possibly castoff from an object being swung or blood being coughed, or expelled from the victim's mouth.

But if or how that might be significant to the case has not yet been explained.

Blood patterns 'predictable'

Wentzell said blood follows the laws of physics and that its patterns are "predictable and reproducible."

Some of the things a bloodstain pattern analyst may be able to determine include: the position of the victim and assailant, any movement of the bleeding victim, the minimal number of blows involved, and the mechanism used.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Wentzell says the best opportunity for blood stain analysis is when the body is present and the scene is undisturbed. (CBC)
They may also be able to confirm or refute the statements of witnesses or an accused, he said during a PowerPoint presentation to the court about the science behind bloodstain analysis.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh deemed Wentzell an expert qualified to give opinion evidence about the size, shape, location and distribution patterns of blood stains and the interpretation of the physical events that cause them.

Wentzell said he drove to Saint John on July 11, arriving just before noon. He had a brief meeting at police headquarters with forensics Sgt. Mark Smith, Deputy Chief Glen McCloskey and Sgt. David Brooker of the major crime unit, to discuss the scene and Oland's injuries.

He and Smith entered the crime scene around 1:40 p.m., both wearing protective gear, including white suits, gloves and booties, to prevent any contamination of the scene.

After an initial walk through, Wentzell took some photographs, 123 of which were submitted into evidence.

Before the photos were displayed on a large monitor in the courtroom, the judge advised citizens they would be graphic and might be disturbing to some people.

Wentzell will be back on the stand on Friday at 9:30 a.m. when the trial resumes.

The trial, which is in its fifth week, is scheduled to continue until Dec. 18.