A New Jersey businessman accused of killing his brother, his brother's wife, and their two children pleaded not guilty Monday to felony murder and other charges, the same day his defense attorneys withdrew from the case due to recently discovered conflicts of interest. Michael Wicke, the new lawyer for Paul Caneiro, 52, entered the pleas on his behalf during a five-minute court hearing in Freehold, New Jersey, the AP reports. A prosecutor says the state plans to pursue life in prison without parole. Monmouth County prosecutors have said Caneiro's brother, Keith, was planning to cut him off financially because he was suspicious of Paul over missing money from two companies they owned at the Jersey shore. The next day, Nov. 20, Keith Caneiro and his family were found dead in their burning mansion in Colts Neck.
An indictment handed up late last month charges Paul Caneiro with murder, felony murder, aggravated arson and a weapons offense. He also faces counts of theft, misapplication of entrusted property and hindering his own apprehension. Caneiro had previously been represented by private attorneys Robert Honecker Jr. and Mitchell Ansell, who maintained his innocence. However, they said they determined they could no longer represent him because a review of materials recently released by prosecutors found "at least two separate and clear" conflicts of interest. The attorneys' statement did not specify those conflicts, and they declined to elaborate on the matter after the hearing. Caneiro will now be represented by the public defender's office, NJ.com reports. (More on the alleged evidence against Caneiro here.)