The concept of envy is one that nearly everyone can understand implicitly, especially today, thanks to social media. People highlight their newest purchases, recent meals, wedding days, and their personal and professional accomplishments all the time. Whatever the case may be, most of us tend to be on one side of envy or the other…
Most of the time, this fleeting sense of envy is innocuous. In the end, we all have what we have and we must learn to be content and happy with our piece in life. But what happens when our sense of envy eclipses everything, including our own safety or the safety of those we love?
A Blazing Home
It was 5:01 am and a house was ablaze in the sleepy suburb of Ocean Township, New Jersey. The house, a $670,000, four-bedroom Goliath, had stuck out like something of a sore thumb in the pervasively normal neighborhood. It’s owner, 51-year-old Paul Caneiro, lived there with his wife Susan and two adult daughters.
Escaping the Blaze
Regardless of who made the 911 call, however, it was lucky that they did. The blaze was put out pretty quickly and only a small portion of it was damaged. No one had been hurt either, Paul, Susan, and the girls managed to escape relatively unscathed and were waiting in their car when emergency crews arrived. Still, something seemed off about the whole thing.
Nervous and Shaking
Paul seemed visibly shaken, as were his wife and the girls. It made sense, they had all been forced to run for their lives in the early hours of the morning, leaving all their treasured belongings to burn. In reality, Paul’s fear and nervousness had little to do with the after-effects of the fire, but what he himself had done to cause it in the first place.
Miles away from Paul’s house, another crime had also been committed. Though it was unbeknownst to the police at the time. Keith Caneiro, Paul’s brother and business partner, had been murdered inside his Colts Neck home. His wife, Jennifer, and his two children, Jesse and Sophia, had also been killed.
A Whole Family
Seven hours later, Keith’s neighbors would be called from their homes with the news that his mansion was also on fire. Keith was already dead inside, he had been shot. His wife and two children were also dead, stabbed to death by some unknown assailant. The fire had been little more than a distraction to potentially obfuscate their deaths.
It took fire crews several hours to put out the blaze and though the four bodies of the family were badly burned by the time they were autopsied, it was clear that foul play had been involved. They had been the victims of what the police called “homicidal violence” and Paul Caneiro allegedly knew all about it; though police weren’t aware of that at the time.
Keith Caneiro lived in Colts Neck, a much more affluent neighborhood. Buying land there, let alone a mansion, was no small feat. It seemed that though the two brothers worked in the same business, Keith had done much better for himself than Paul. It was that distinctive disparity that should have clued police in from the start.
The Caneiro brothers had grown up in Brooklyn with their youngest brother, Corey. When they got older, Paul and Keith built up their own business and ended up partners in a tech consulting firm. Keith was the CEO and Paul was the vice president, a fact which always seemed to bother Paul.
In truth, both brothers were very similar. They both married women from Staten Island and Keith was Paul’s best man at his wedding. They had similar mindsets and that helped them parlay their skills into a successful business. Yet it seemed something always lurked between them, an envy that Paul could never seem to let go.
The Pay Off
Keith’s mansion had been totally paid off. Their nine acres of land had been completely their own for two years prior to the blaze. Afterward, the burned-out building sat partially inaccessible to law enforcement officials for a long while. As such, any evidence of who had started the blaze or killed the family had to wait to be uncovered, though police had some suspicions as to Paul’s involvement.
The two were also partners in a pest control company which they also operated out of their tech firm’s office. Their relationship was publicly competitive, at least on Paul’s part. Indeed, many of his neighbors seemed to think that the “lesser” Caneiro was obsessed with the concept of wealth, especially when comparing his own to that of other people.
Enamored With Money
Yet was Paul so obsessed that he would set not only his brother’s house on fire but his own, in order to cover up what the police believed he had done? One of Paul’s neighbors didn’t think so. That unnamed neighbor even remarked that Paul was so enamored with money that he would be very unlikely to want to set his own house on fire. Especially not after all the work he’d done on it.
That same neighbor did admit that Paul’s efforts to show-off his own prodigious wealth had been a bit “over-the-top” as of late. His overlarge home was loaded with surveillance cameras, with infrared scanners on both floors. He even spent a massive $140,000 building his deck. He couldn’t believe that anyone might presume Paul was the arsonist, let alone a murderer.
The same talkative neighbor did, however, remark on Paul’s ambition and his bitterness at not reaching the same level as his brother. He was showy, trying his hardest to indicate how successful he was. “He liked the good stuff,” the man said. “He’s got his girls Porches for their first cars. That doesn’t fit the profile of a person who lives in this neighborhood.”
Paul was, by all accounts, a “big shot” in the upper-middle-class neighborhood, or at least he behaved as such. His personality notwithstanding, the police couldn’t simply indict him on the assumption that he’d killed his brother and his family; even if he stood the best chance to inherit the CEO position in their shared business.
Hard to Charge
Without evidence, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni and his ilk could not possibly levy charges against him. What they could charge Paul with was arson of his own house. No matter how proud he was of the home or how many crocodile tears he shed over his loss, all signs still pointed to him.
A few days after the fire, Paul Caneiro was charged with aggravated arson. The fire investigators alleged that he’d doused part of the home with gasoline cans before setting it ablaze. As if that weren’t enough, they also alleged that he did so without warning his wife and children first.
No Official Link
CNN reported that “Paul Caneiro’s attorneys, Robert Honecker and Mitchell Ansell, said their client was wrongfully accused and that he ‘had absolutely nothing to do with these horrific crimes.'”
No Other Suspects
As of yet, there are no other suspects in the murders aside from Paul. The current theory is that the family was targeted and that there is a distinct possibility it is wholly unrelated to Paul’s arson crime. They are still investigating the whole case, but the burned-out buildings have made forensic evidence difficult to cultivate.
Court Days to Come
On November 29, 2018, Paul was charged with the murders of his brother’s family among other crimes connected to the case, though many questions remain. Why would he risk his family and his home to light the fire, not to mention his freedom? And if he wasn’t responsible for Keith and his family, then who was?