Dennis Oland plans to spend quality time with his family today, his first full day as a free man in more than eight years.
Oland, 51, has been living under a cloud of suspicion since the day his father’s bludgeoned body was discovered in his Saint John office in 2011.
On Friday in Saint John, Justice Terrence Morrison of New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench found Oland not guilty of second-degree murder at his retrial in the death of his father, Richard Oland.
Morrison’s oral ruling took only 15 minutes, but his written decision is 146 pages, much of it “technical” and “scientific.”
Unlike the jury that convicted Oland at his first trial in 2015, whose verdict was overturned by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal because of an error in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury, Morrison had to provide reasons for his decision, based on the evidence presented at his retrial and the law.
Although motive is not an essential element of the offence, it “provides context for the interpretation of the evidence,” said Morrison.
“Without motive, the trier of fact is being asked to put the jigsaw puzzle together without the benefit of seeing the picture on the puzzle box,” Morrison said.
The Crown’s motive theory was three-pronged and here is Morrison’s reasoning about each one:
1) Oland had a troubled relationship with his father.
Morrison said he had no doubt Oland and his father had a “difficult relationship.” He noted the evidence suggested the elder Oland had a “demanding, controlling and difficult personality.”
But Morrison could not conclude the relationship was “so dysfunctional” as to be abnormal. “In my view, whatever resentments the relationship may have fostered in Dennis Oland they cannot, on their own, account for Richard Oland’s murder.”
2) Oland “disapproved” of his father’s extra-marital affair with local realtor Diana Sedlacek.
Morrison rejected this suggestion “outright.” The gist of the conversation Oland had with his father’s business associate Robert McFadden about the affair “hardly belies a burning resentment, let alone red-eyed rage,” he said.
McFadden testified Oland told him in 2008-09, “Maybe you could mention to him to cool it, or be more discreet.”
“It was a rather tepid suggestion made in a one-off, unrelated conversation at least a year and a half before the murder,” said Morrison.
3) When Oland visited his father at his office on July 6, 2011, the night he was killed, he was in dire financial straits and had “nowhere left to turn” but to his father, whose investments were worth an estimated $36 million.
Between January and July 6, 2011, he spent $86,000 more than his income. He had missed two interest-only payments of $1,666.67 to his father on his $538,000 loan.
Oland also missed his June 2011 payment on his $163,000 line of credit from CIBC, which he had secured against the ancestral home. This line of credit wasn’t known to his father, who wanted him to sign a mortgage and right of first refusal agreement with him over the home, the courtroom heard.
Crown prosecutors posited Oland asked his father for financial assistance during the visit, his father refused and he killed him in a state of “rage.”
Morrison accepted Oland’s testimony that he was not overly concerned about his financial situation, but found his testimony regarding a $16,000 advance on his salary he received from CIBC Wood Gundy where he worked as a financial adviser “simply not credible.”
Oland had sent an email to his supervisor on June 1 stating he expected to increase his book of business by August/September. “We are looking at total new assets in the $10-20 million range.”
“The clear and unequivocal meaning of that email is that … he expected to have an additional $10-20 million invested by his father and another unnamed investor,” not just that $10-$20 million was his growth target, as he testified to, said Morrison.
The judge dismissed as “unrealistic” Oland’s testimony that he would have been able to “extricate himself from his financial morass” simply by increasing his book of business. “That is a long-term plan, not an immediate solution,” he said.