Colts Neck murders: analysis of some statements released by Paul Caneiro’s lawyers

Paul J. Caneiro

Paul J. Caneiro, 51, is the brother of a Colts Neck man found dead along with his wife and two children at their burned out home on November 20, 2018.

On November 21, 2018, Caneiro was charged with one count of second degree Aggravated Arson in connection with the fire at his Tinton Avenue residence the morning of the murders. According withe the prosecutor’s office he purposefully set fire in his Ocean Township home while his wife and two daughters were inside.

Additional charges were later filed as announced by prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni in a press conference on November 29, 2018.

Paul Caneiro was charged with 4 counts of murders, one count of second degree Aggravated Arson, second degree Possession of a Firearm for unlawful purpose and third degree Possession of a Knife for an unlawful purpose.

Paul Caneiro pleaded not guilty to all charges.

According to the prosecutor’s office, during the early morning hours of November 20, 2018, Paul Caneiro repeatedly shot his brother Keith, 50, at his Colts Neck property, he then shot and stabbed Keith’s wife, Jennifer, 45, and stabbed by knife their children, James, 11, and Sophie, 8, before setting a fire in the basement of the house in “an effort to conceal and disguise his earlier committed crimes”, then Paul Caneiro “returned to his house in Ocean Township” and “intentionally set fire in his home, out about 5 am, for the purpose of both destroy evidence his earlier crimes in Colts Neck and to also create the illusion that the overall Caneiro family was somehow victimized or targeted”.

On November 29, 2018, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni revealed at a press conference that investigators believe the motive for the murders was “financial in nature, stemming from his and the victim’s joint business ventures they owned and operated out of Asbury Park”.

Keith and Jennifer Caneiro

On November 19, 2018, defence attorneys Robert Honecker Jr. and Mitchell Ansell released the following statement:

What we look for in the following excerpts is for Paul Caneiro’s lawyers to report a reliable denial from their client. We begin every statement analysis expecting truth, and it is the unexpected that confronts us as possibly deceptive.

Paul Caneiro is an innocent man who stands wrongfully accused by the State of New Jersey. Paul’s family means more to him than anything else in this world. Paul’s brother Keith and his family similarly were everything to Paul. He worked with his brother Keith for 31 years and he loved his sister-in-law as if she was his sister. Paul Caneiro always participated in the lives of Jesse and Sophia from watching them at their various events at school and spending time with them frequently. Paul just couldn’t say no to his family. The process today can begin for a search for the truth and who committed these horrendous acts. From the moment Paul Caneiro was arrested, he has asserted his innocence in that he had absolutely nothing to do with these horrific crimes. Paul continues to maintain his innocence. There is absolutely no reason in the world for Paul Caneiro to have committed the crimes he is alleged to have committed. He would never hurt any member of his family. Paul’s expectations are when this case is over he will be completely vindicated and the truth will come out.

Note that in this statement Caneiro’s lawyers affirm not that their client “didn’t do it” but that he “is an innocent man who stands wrongfully accused by the State of New Jersey” and that he “continues to maintain his innocence”.

To affirm to be innocent is different from saying “I didn’t kill my brother and his family”, which is expected. To say “He is innocent” or “I am innocent” is to deny the judicial outcome, not the action. 

An innocent “de facto” is someone who did not “do it” and is able to say “I didn’t do it” and eventually to add in the judicial conclusion, when Caneiro says “I’m innocent” he says the truth, he is still innocent “de iure” because he hasn’t been judged jet. 

However, note that “Paul continues to maintain his innocence” leave open the possibility that he could change his mind and plea guilty.

“Paul’s family means more to him than anything else in this world. Paul’s brother Keith and his family similarly were everything to Paul. He worked with his brother Keith for 31 years and he loved his sister-in-law as if she was his sister. Paul Caneiro always participated in the lives of Jesse and Sophia from watching them at their various events at school and spending time with them frequently. Paul just couldn’t say no to his family. Paul continues to maintain his innocence. There is absolutely no reason in the world for Paul Caneiro to have committed the crimes he is alleged to have committed. He would never hurt any member of his family” are 113 words used to try to persuade the listeners/readers of something that Paul Caneiro was unable or unwilling to say to his lawyers which is “I didn’t kill my brother and his family”, something that would take the effort to say just 9 words. 

“he had absolutely nothing to do with these horrific crimes”“There is absolutely no reason in the world for Paul Caneiro to have committed the crimes he is alleged to have committed” and “He would never hurt any member of his family” are unreliable denial.

Keith Caneiro’s property in Colts Neck, New Jersey

On November 30, 2018, Paul Caneiro’s defense attorneys, Robert Honecker Jr. and Mitchell Ansell spoke to the journalist outside the Monmouth County court:

Defence attorney Robert Honecker Jr.: Good morning everyone, first of all I need to introduce ourselves, my name is Robert Honecker Jr., I’m partner with the with Law firm Ansell, Grimm and Aaron, my partner Mitchell Ansell, we are both criminal defence attorneys. We both have been doing this probably 30, 20, 30 years. We represent Paul Caneiro. You understand that Mr. Caneiro has been charged with four counts of murders, associated charge of arson and weapon possession. Mr Caneiro maintains his innocence of the charges, he has indicated that he would never engage in conduct which would cause harm to his brother or his brother’s family and he intends to challenge the evidence that he is been gathered by the prosecutor’s office in this case and certainly in his view he believes that when the case will fall out the result that he’ll be vendicated.

According with what defence attorney Robert Honecker Jr. said at the press conference, Paul Caneiro didn’t say that he “didn’t kill his brother and his family” but that he has indicated that he would never engage in conduct which would cause harm to his brother or his brother’s family”, this is an unreliable denial.

Note that defence attorney Honecker reported again that “Caneiro mantains his innocence of the charges”.

Note that “in his view he believes” is distancing language.   

Defense attorney Mitchell Ansell: I like to add that Paul Caneiro loved his brother, loved his sister-in-law like a sister, loved those children and would never do anything to harm them. There’s no reason on this earth for him to have harmed them.

Defense attorney Mitchell Ansell reported that Caneiro “loved his brother, loved his sister-in-law like a sister, loved those children and would never do anything to harm them. There’s no reason on this earth for him to have harmed them“, these are unreliable denial. 

Note the desire to persuade of something Paul Caneiro is unable or unwilling to deny.

Note that Caneiro used with his lawyers the word “harm” instead of “kill” to minimize, this has to do with the sense of guilt. Minimization is a distancing measure, it’s a way to avoid of dealing with negative emotions by reducing the importance and impact of events that give rise to those emotions, it’s a common strategy used by guilty people to deal with feelings of guilt.

Defense attorney Robert Honecker Jr.: And… and now we begin the process, this is the criminal justice process, this process is designed to search for the truth, obviously the State has their view of what occurred in Colts Neck, New Jersey, certainly we will represent a different view and automatically a decision will be made as to what happened that evening and early morning hours in Colts Neck.

Defense attorney Mitchell Ansell: He does maintain his innocence.

Defense attorney Mitchell Ansell: His family is supporting him. It’s just with what was going on this morning, we felt it better and safer for them not to be here. We were consenting to detention. There was not going to be a hearing today so there really was no need for them to be here.

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION

Caneiro was unable to release a reliable denial to his lawyers.

He showed a need to persuade that usually innocent don’t have.

He counts on listeners to interpret. 

There is no “wall of truth” within him. The “wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that often leads innocent people to few words, as the subject has no need to persuade anyone of anything.

In my opinion, Paul Caneiro will be charged with four counts of capital murder and his lawyers will do their best to take the death penalty “off the table”. Probably Caneiro will plea guilty as part of a deal, in exchange prosecutors will agree to not pursue the death penalty against him.

Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist

CASE UPDATES:

On Monday, February 25, 2019, Paul Caneiro was charged with four counts of murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated arson, possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a handgun, possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a knife, theft of more than $75,000 from the slain family, misapplication of $78,180 of the slain family’s funds and two counts of hindering his own apprehension to avoid prosecution for the murders and to avoid prosecution for the theft.

Investigators found evidence to ty Paul Caneiro to the killings in the basement of his home including a pair of jeans and a latex glove that both had Sophia’s, they also found ammunition matching shell casings found at the murder scene .

Paul Caneiro pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, March 18, 2019, the two attorneys who had been representing Caneiro, Robert A. Honecker Jr. and Mitchell Ansell of the Ocean Township law firm Ansell, Grimm and Aaron, officially withdrew from the case due to conflicts of interest. They would not elaborate on the conflicts not to impair Paul Caneiro’s ability to get a fair trial.

On Monday, March 18, 2019, Deputy Assistant Public Defender Michael Wicke entered the not-guilty pleas on behalf of Paul J. Caneiro before Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley.

Annunci