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Scion of Canadian Beer Dynasty Wails as He's Found Guilty of Father's Murder

It was a chaotic, emotional conclusion to a murder trial that exposed the private dysfunction of some of Atlantic Canada’s wealthiest elites.
December 19, 2015, 10:40pm
Dennis Oland and his wife, Lisa, this week leaving court. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

"Oh god! No, no!" Dennis Oland howled, doubling over as though physically attacked.

As 12 jurors each repeated the guilty verdict, those in the gallery at the Saint John Law Courts today could discern disconnected phrases — "going to jail … my children" — through Oland's sobs. Defense lawyer Gary Miller clasped his client by the shoulders.

It was a chaotic, emotional conclusion to a murder trial that exposed the private dysfunction of some of Atlantic Canada's wealthiest elites.

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The wretched scene at court paled alongside the brutality of the crime of which Oland, 47, a former financial advisor, has now been convicted. His father, multimillionaire Richard Oland, part of the sixth-generation of Moosehead beer-brewing Olands, was found beaten and hacked to death in a pool of blood on the floor of his office on July 7, 2011. Since the earliest days of the investigation, Dennis — the last known person to see Richard alive, who lied to police about what he did on the day of the murder, who owed his father hundreds of thousands of dollars, and on whose jacket was found traces of his father's blood — was the only suspect.

Related: A Canadian Beer Baron's Murder — And the Son Who Swears He Didn't Do It

The murder has polarized public opinion in the industrial, coastal hub of Saint John, New Brunswick, a small city with low crime rates and even lower murder rates. While many armchair P.I.s maintained Dennis Oland was the only possible killer, the evidence linking him with the murder was circumstantial. Many (including, as today's reaction in court indicated, the Oland family) predicted an acquittal - while others saw the messy, protracted case as yet another instance of a small coterie of Maritime elites shielding their own from the law. Jurors deliberated for a gruelling 30 hours before reaching the verdict.

Today's emotional courtroom display was the sole fissure in the crisp, old-money facade the Olands have publicly maintained in the four and a half years since the murder. Even in the thick of the trial, which delved deep into Richard's extramarital affair, alleged police incompetence and corruption, and an astonishing array of both literal and figurative dirty laundry, Dennis appeared unflappable, continuing to live a very public existence punctuated by trips to auctions, cultural events, and chic local restaurants. His apparent boldness, in a city of 70,000, did not go unremarked.

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But the family has, unsurprisingly, maintained Dennis' innocence — a sentiment reiterated in an statement emailed to reporters minutes after today's verdict. Dennis' mother, Connie, stated she remains "extremely proud" of her son, and hopes "justice will eventually be served." As the verdict was read, she appeared weakened, unable to stand with Dennis' sister, Jacqueline, and uncle Jack.

Related: Blood, Beer, and the Maritime Rumour Mill: The Dennis Oland Murder Trial

Saint John Police Chief John Bates issued a statement defending the actions of investigating officers. "Our investigative team and the force as a whole … have realized a degree of validation," the statement said.

In addition to the inevitable, lengthy appeal process, one of many lingering questions is what, if anything, the verdict will mean financially for Dennis Oland. With Richard's death, Dennis became either co-director or president of three companies, and received a payout of $150,000 as the co-executor of the will and trustee of an additional fund. While case law seems to suggest a convicted murderer cannot stand to financially benefit from the crime, how these pecuniary considerations play out for Dennis will hinge on the precise terms of his father's will.

Second degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment: jurors recommended that Dennis Oland be eligible for parole after 10 years. However, the final decision rests with Justice John Walsh. Oland will remain in custody until the sentencing scheduled for February 11, 2016 at 9:30 am.

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