Who Killed Richard Oland? New book digs into unsolved murder of Saint John businessman
Author Janice Middleton offers up new suspects for 2011 killing in New Brunswick
In her book Who Killed Richard Oland? A real-life murder mystery, author Janice Middleton starts with a vivid “reconstruction” of the murder.
Spoiler alert: Dennis Oland, Richard’s son who was acquitted in July 2019 of second-degree murder in a second trial, is not the perpetrator in this scenario. Far from it.
Middleton characterizes the murder as a “contract killing” and speculates that it could have been ordered by sour Russian and Ukrainian investors who lost $17.5 million in a failed bid to rekindle the sugar industry in Saint John, N.B.. Richard Oland acted as a broker, bringing public and private investors into a group that bought the old Lantic Sugar plant and started a new venture called Can Sugar that quickly went bankrupt.
Middleton’s book raises a boatload of reasonable doubts; so many that the reader is left wondering how a jury of 12 people could have found Dennis Oland guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at his first trial in 2015.
With so many red flags, she wonders how the case even got past the preliminary inquiry stage, what with all the shoddy police work and skimpy evidence. (More on that later, and even more in the book).
In his ruling after the preliminary inquiry for the first trial, provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc pointed out that the Crown failed to prove that Dennis Oland had a motive to kill his father.
“So weak was the case the Crown presented that it is not immediately apparent why it was not dismissed at this level,” Middleton writes.
Doing so would have saved the taxpayers of New Brunswick millions of dollars, but Middleton theorizes there was a reluctance to repudiate the work of the police and Crown in “the most high-profile murder in New Brunswick judicial history.”
At the trial, the Crown’s case hinged on a few tiny dots of blood found on Dennis Oland’s jacket – blood that matched the DNA of his father.
Middleton recounts the lax handling of the jacket, which was sent for testing by Saint John police after their warrant to keep it had expired. Middleton also reveals the jacket was improperly stored in the desk of police Insp. Glen McCloskey for several months before it was sent for testing. That’s a big no-no in the forensics world, where the chain of evidence is paramount. Judges usually throw out any evidence obtained from contaminated items like this.
In the Oland murder trials, however, it became the only piece of physical evidence the police and Crown used to connect Dennis Oland to the crime.
At that preliminary inquiry for the first trial, Judge LeBlanc questioned “why Dennis Oland would keep a blood-stained jacket while disposing of the murder weapon and his father’s iPhone,” which was what the Crown contended.
A few days after the murder, investigators called the phone and technicians received a “roaming error” message, which suggests it was out of the Rogers coverage area.
Middleton interviewed a telecommunications expert for her book who said that with the technology that existed in 2011 “the Saint John police should have been able to locate the phone anywhere in the world. The police never found Richard Oland’s iPhone.”
Soon after Richard Oland’s battered and bloody body was found at the downtown Saint John office of Far End Corporation on the morning of July 7, 2011, Saint John police investigators were very quickly and thoroughly convinced that Dennis Oland was the killer.
They neglected other investigative avenues, Middleton writes, and looked at all evidence through the lens of “Dennis Oland murdered his dad.” They also ignored all evidence that did not support that theory.
In painstaking detail, Middleton analyzes how the faulty police investigation was further hampered by “tunnel vision.”
They did not pursue the angle Middleton describes in her reconstruction, but more tellingly, they did not explore the angle involving one of Richard Oland’s two mistresses.
Here are the lowlights of how the Saint John Police Force’s ham-fisted investigation was derailed by a misguided notion:
- The crime scene was not fully or properly investigated.
- A key witnesses was not interviewed and not called to testify at the first trial.
- Video evidence that gave Dennis Oland an alibi was not uncovered by police.
- Autopsy evidence suggested the killer was right-handed while Dennis Oland is left-handed.
Middleton also pokes holes in the Crown’s rationale that Dennis Oland committed an “act of spontaneous rage” in murdering his dad, hence the charge of second-degree murder.
First-degree murder would have required proof of planning, like thinking about such major details as concealing all the blood that would have been on the killer and bringing the murder weapon – a drywall hammer – to a meeting with Richard Oland. It was not something that was kept in the office at Far End and it’s not something people usually carry around with them.
With all these errors in practice and reasoning, Middleton suggests that in Dennis Oland’s case, the fundamental tenet of our justice system, that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, was turned on its head.
“Dennis has had to prove his innocence, and in the eyes of too many, he has yet to do that,” Middleton writes.
Who Killed Richard Oland? A real-life murder mystery by Janice Middleton is published by Formac Publishing Company.