Saint John police’s lead investigator testifies at Dennis Oland murder trial

Testimony from the Saint John police’s lead investigator has dominated the second-degree murder trial of Dennis Oland on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning at the Saint John Law Courts saw Const. Stephen Davidson face questions on one of the most baffling aspects of the Richard Oland murder case:  What happened to the multi-millionaire’s cell phone, the only thing taken from the crime scene?

Davidson spent much of the morning describing the steps he took to track cell phone calls and texts in an effort to see where the missing iPhone went.

“We made test calls in the city of Saint John and in Rothesay,” Davidson told the court.

The phone, which was never found, and its last known route is key evidence for the prosecution which is continuing to lay out its case at the Oland retrial in Saint John. When the bludgeoned body of 69-year-old Richard Oland was found on July 7, 2011, on the floor of his uptown Saint John office, the only thing missing was his iPhone. He was wearing a valuable watch, the keys to his expensive car were on the floor near the body and cash in the office was untouched – all indications to police that robbery was not a motive.

Dennis Oland, 50, an investment adviser, is the last known person to have seen his father alive. He was in his father’s office from about 5:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m. on July 6, 2011. Most of the time, the two were alone.

Oland told police that when he left the office at around 6:30 p.m., he headed back to his home in nearby Rothesay, with a stop at the local Renforth Wharf to see if his children were swimming there.

Police and prosecutors say the missing phone also was on the move at that time. The last communication received by Richard Oland’s cell was a text message at 6:44 p.m. on July 6, 2011, and it appears to have pinged off a tower in Rothesay, near the wharf.

Rogers Communications, Richard Oland’s service provider, established the iPhone’s movements through data records. Prosecutors have already told the court they intend to call a cellular network expert to testify that cell phones typically connect with the closest tower as that provides the strongest signal.

Davidson said he made the test calls on a phone, similar to the one Oland had owned, in March, 2012.

“I stopped at several places as I travelled to Rothesay, including the Renfrew Wharf,” he said, testing to see how the phone worked and which towers were involved.

Davidson also described to the court an extensive police search of Dennis Oland’s home and property in the days after the murder, including the garage where officers hunted unsuccessfully for a possible weapon.

His testimony is set to continue once court resumes at 1:30 p.m.

Dennis Oland, 50, is on trial for the second-degree murder of his 69-year-old father, whose body was found lying in a pool of blood on July 7, 2011.

The trial had previously learned that Richard Oland was bludgeoned to death with an unknown weapon or weapons.

The 45 wounds on his hands and head were mostly from a sharp-edged implement, such as an axe of some sort, and there were a few round wounds that appeared to be from a hammer, the court heard in previous testimony.

Dennis Oland has steadfastly maintained his innocence. He was charged in 2013 and tried and convicted by a jury in 2015. That verdict was set aside on appeal in 2016 when the new trial was ordered.

The Crown has contended that Dennis Oland was deeply in debt and on the edge financially when he killed his very rich father “in a rage” over money.

The defence has suggested that Saint John police mishandled the investigation and rushed to judgment in deciding very quickly that Dennis Oland was the killer.

The trial is expected to last until March.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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