SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Members of a leading business family in Atlantic Canada that made its name in the brewing industry rallied Wednesday behind one of their own, publicly declaring they believe Dennis Oland innocent of murdering his father.
Oland, 45, made his first court appearance facing a charge of second-degree murder. His mother, wife, two sisters, a cousin and his uncle were in the public gallery in the courtroom in Saint John on Wednesday to show their support.
“We are devastated that this nightmare for Dennis and for all of us is going to continue,” said a statement issued by his mother, wife and sisters.
“We know that he will be found innocent in an objective and fair process in a court of law.
“We wish that the police would turn their attention to finding out who is really responsible for Dick’s death.”
Richard Oland, 69, was a well-known businessman and a member of the Order of Canada who was found dead in his office in Saint John on July 7, 2011.
He was a member of the family that owns Moosehead Breweries Ltd., but left the company in the 1980s and went on to work in the trucking business and at the Saint John Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.
Dressed in a sweatshirt over a plaid shirt, Dennis Oland smiled at family members as he arrived in provincial court. He was arrested Tuesday in nearby Rothesay.
Oland was remanded by Judge Marco Cloutier until his next court appearance Tuesday, when a date is to be set for a preliminary hearing.
He spoke only once in court, replying “Yes, sir” when Cloutier asked if he understood the charge he faces.
Oland was first identified as a suspect in his father’s murder in court documents released in May. Since then, pieces of the police investigation have been released by a provincial court judge after two media organizations argued that search warrants and affidavits to support them should be made public.
Among the assertions that have been released in those documents was a sworn police affidavit that says blood on a sports jacket found in Dennis Oland’s home in Rothesay matched the DNA profile of his father.
The documents contain claims not proven in court.
Oland’s lawyer declined comment Wednesday.
“It doesn’t matter what the case is, I’m used to trying cases in the courtroom, not the media,” Gary Miller said outside court.
At a news conference earlier Wednesday, Saint John police Chief Bill Reid said the Crown gave approval for the charge to be laid about three weeks ago. No one else will be charged as a result of the police investigation, which Reid described as a complex case that required officers to “build the mosaic.”
“We built a case from nothing, essentially. Our members did a fantastic job,” he added. “But it was a process driven investigation, as opposed to someone saw something and they are our eyewitness, or here is where you are going to find this or here is where you are going to find that. We did not have anything like that in the case.”
Reid said Oland died after repeated blows, but wouldn’t elaborate or say whether police found a murder weapon.
The provincial court judge who heard the media applications has blocked the release of any information considered to be hallmark evidence, which the Crown described as anything relating to the crime scene and physical condition and position of Oland’s body that only the killer or killers would know.
But other information has been made public in recent months including an affidavit from Sgt. Tony Hayes of Saint John police that says a brown Hugo Boss jacket with blood stains on it was seized by police from Dennis Oland’s home and sent to a forensics lab in Halifax in November 2011 for testing. The affidavit dated Sept. 7, 2012, says the results from the lab show the blood stains matched Richard Oland’s DNA.
Search warrants released in May also say that when Dennis Oland was questioned by police, he said he was wearing a blue jacket on July 6, 2011 — the day before his father’s body was found — but two people told police they saw him wearing a brown jacket that day. Those warrants also say that a surveillance video showed Dennis Oland wearing a brown jacket when he arrived and left his place of work that day.
During a court proceeding in July 2012, Const. Stephen Davidson of the Saint John police said the jacket mentioned in the affidavit was “one of the most important pieces of evidence we have in proving this case and taking it to trial.”
Search warrants also say that Dennis Oland was “experiencing financial hardships” and owed his father more than $500,000.
According to a second affidavit released last month that’s dated Oct. 2, 2012, Dennis Oland told police on July 7, 2011, that his father had bankrolled his divorce a few years earlier and he was making interest-only repayments to him.
The document says police found that monthly payments were being made to Richard Oland’s personal chequing account but there were no deposits made in May and June 2011 and that a deposit made on July 5, 2011, was rejected due to insufficient funds. The dollar amounts were redacted.
Derek Oland, who ran the family brewing business after his brother left, attended Wednesday’s court appearance and released a statement in the hours after his nephew’s arrest that maintained his innocence.
“This situation truly is a tragedy for all of us who are part of the Oland family,” it says, “and we are striving to understand and deal with the many implications.”