05/17/2013 10:06 EDT | Updated 07/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Dennis Oland named as prime suspect in father's slaying

Dennis Oland is considered the prime suspect in the killing of his father, Richard Oland, according to search warrants.

His name had been previously subject to a publication ban ordered last fall by provincial court Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson.

But a Court of Queen's Bench judge has quashed the publication ban.

Justice William Grant ruled Friday that Jackson "made an error of law" in imposing the ban on the names of people who were subject to searches in the murder investigation.

Oland, 69, a prominent businessman, was found dead in his uptown Saint John office on July 7, 2011.

No charges have been laid in the nearly two-year-old case.

Saint John police Chief Bill Reid said early on that Oland was likely killed by someone he knew.

The court documents identify his only son, Dennis, as the prime suspect. He was the last known person to see his father alive and when questioned by police about what happened on July 6, said: "Until I went over to [Richard Oland's] office, it was a very typical day."

'On the edge financially'

The documents suggest a possible financial motive. Dennis, one of Oland's financial advisers, is described as being "on the edge financially," after having gone through a divorce a few years earlier.

Dennis told police his father had "bankrolled the divorce," paying his $85,000 in legal fees, and bought the family's ancestral home from him, so he wouldn't lose it. Dennis had to repay him the legal fees, as well as the mortgage of between $500,000 and $600,000.

Dennis described his relationship with his father as "great, until his early teen years," according to the documents.

"His father was not the easiest guy to get along with, and you kept your distance," Const. Stacy Humphrey states in the sworn document, based on Dennis's statement to police.

"Dennis stated that things got complicated in his teens, but he feels some of the issues were that his father is ex-military and that he grew up in a family with high expectations," Humphrey states.

"Dennis believed that his father had high expectations of him, and that he had not met those expectations," she said.

Suspected of lying about clothing

The documents also reveal lead investigator Const. Stephen Davidson believes Dennis lied to police about what clothes he was wearing the day his father died.

Dennis said he was wearing khaki dress pants, dark brown dress shoes, and a blue and white collared dress shirt with a navy blazer.

But a witness said he saw someone matching Dennis's description entering Oland's office building wearing a dark brown sports coat with lighter-coloured pants.

Video surveillance of Dennis at a different location earlier that day supports the witness’s account, according to the documents. It shows the man wearing a dark brown blazer, collared shirt and khaki pants.

Dennis's wife, Lisa, told police she did not see him when he got home that day. "He went straight upstairs and got changed," the documents state.

"They had a conversation as to where he was after work. Dennis told her that he met with his father at his office. They talked about the family history and he said the meeting was 'really nice.'"

Strained relationship

Dennis's relationship with his father had been strained for years, she told police. "He has always tried to gain the respect of his father. However he has never been able to live up to his standards."

Oland's wife of 46 years, Constance Oland, told police he had high expectations of his children, expecting them to perform at "150 per cent" all the time, according to the documents.

Oland did not have much to do with his three children, but Dennis had "always tried to connect with his father," she said.

Oland's mistress of eight years, Diana Sedlacek, told police he was distant from his family and had complained to her about Dennis's work ethic.

Dennis and one of his sisters had a conversation about their father's affair, according to the documents. Dennis had asked Oland's employee and longtime friend Bob McFadden to "speak to his father and tell him to stop the affair because it was becoming more public."

Police searched Dennis's home on Gondola Point Road in Rothesay, his 2009 Volkswagen Golf, his office at CIBC Wood Gundy and a sailboat co-owned by his wife and another woman, Mary-Beth Watt.

Officers seized several items, including Dennis's clothes, the lint trap of his dryer, financial and legal documents, a GPS from the boat and forensic swabs of a red drop on a seat and a red stain at the back of the sink.

Public searches

Although it had been previously reported that police had searched Dennis's home and the sailboat, the provincial court judge placed a ban on the names of people searched and any personal information that would reveal their identity.

But the judge failed to make the threshold determination that a publication ban on the names was necessary based on the evidence before him, Justice Grant stated in his 27-page decision, released on Friday.

"It might be argued that by ordering the publication ban [Jackson] impliedly made the finding that some form of a sealing order was necessary to protect the Interested Parties," who were subject to searches, said Grant.

"However such a conclusion would be at odds with [Jackson's] observation that because their names were already widely reported in the media … one may wonder whether a non-publication order would achieve any purpose.'"

CBC News and Brunswick News had applied to the Court of Queen's Bench for a judicial review of Jackson's publication ban on the names of those searched, as well as a publication ban and sealing order on the closed-door testimony of the lead investigator in the case.

The estate of Oland and his family, his son Dennis, the Saint John police and the Attorney General of New Brunswick had all opposed the application.

Can't stuff genie in bottle

Lawyers representing members of the Oland family had argued publication of their names would subvert the ends of justice and prejudice the interests of them as innocent persons.

They said they had already been subject to a great deal of media scrutiny and though their names had already been published prior to the publication ban, "enough is enough."

In addition, they suggested the publication ban was a "reasonably alternative measure," which impairs the open court principle only minimally.

Media lawyer David Coles argued the searches had been observed and reported. "It brings the court into disrespect with the public when we try to stuff genies back into bottles," he said.

Coles described the case as an attempt to rewrite history and likened it to George Orwell's 1984.

Justice Grant ruled the position of the Oland family's lawyers "was supported only by general assertions.

"There was no specific evidence that they suffered any damage or harm arising from the publication of their names and while intense media scrutiny is undoubtedly difficult for them to endure, the sensibility of individuals is not, as a general rule, a sufficient justification for a publication ban," he said.

"Based on the record before the court in this application, then, I find that there is no serious threat to the proper administration of justice in this case that would support this publication ban."

Grant dismissed the application to lift the publication ban and sealing order on the police officer's closed-door testimony, however, suggesting it may be more appropriate for Jackson to be the one to reconsider his initial order.

"The status of those publication bans should be considered by the judge who issued them in the context in which they were issued and in the context of the evidence to which they apply," he said.

No details about how Oland died or whether any weapons were involved have been released.

There is still a redaction on details about the crime scene and condition of Oland's body — so-called "hallmark" evidence that only the person or persons responsible for his death would know. Police say they need to withhold that information to prevent any false confessions or interference in their investigation.

The police chief has said he expects charges to be laid in the case this year.

Dennis's lawyer, Gary Miller, could not be reached for comment.