You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family…
My brother accused my wife (now ex wife) of trying to kill him by burning his house down while he was sleeping. How can I fix our relationship? (Long)
In the summer 2007 I (45m)was married to my now ex wife when my brothers(43m)house was set on fire in early hours around 3am, while he and his fiancé were sleeping. The house that he was living in was a house that he had bought recently from my then wife’s parents. My wife grew up in this house with her sister and brother so, lots of history and my wife’s parents were happy to keep the house within the family. The house was initially offered to my wife and I but we declined as were were already established in a house of our own. My wife, 3 children, our dog and I lived in our house about couple miles away. My parents lived in another house a few streets down right in between my brother and I. I had even gotten my brother a job at the company I work for, we all hung out and talked often and I felt we were all a pretty close family.
When we found out his house was set on fire we were all shocked and curious as I think anyone would be. My brother and his fiancé sustained no physical injuries but were displaced from the house due to the significant damage. The fire department came quickly and was able to put out much of the fire. We were told by police investigators that someone had poured gasoline around the back of the house and set it on fire. Police questioned neighbors and family members if anyone knew or saw anything but due to the time the fire was set, most people were sleeping so police didn’t really have much to go on. Then about a month later, while nobody was living in the house, in the early morning hours it was set on fire again. The fire department comes, puts out the fire. Again police questioned neighbors, family members and again not much to go on. A few more weeks go by, the house still being empty, gets set on fire for the third time. The story was all over local television, online and in local newspapers. My brother was so distraught and everyone was just in complete shock and disbelief. The whole community was on edge because there was an arsonist at large and police really started looking at people my brother knew rather than some random vandals. Police said they felt this was personal.
Police showed up at my front door to question me about the fires and if I had any information on them or if I knew anyone that would want to harm my brother in any way and asked me if they could look around the house. Without a warrant, I walked the police through my entire house. My brother also contacted me stating that the police would like a statement and fingerprints from my wife and I and if I could just shoot down to the police station and do that, that it would be a huge help to the investigation. Without attorney, I then called the police and set up a time to meet with them to give a statement and fingerprints. I then had to cancel and reschedule that meeting due to the fact that I was working two jobs, my wife was in nursing school and we had 3 boys, which 2 of them played baseball, to schedule a more suitable time for everyone. Our daily schedule was chaotic. My brother took extreme offense to that, saying that I didn’t make it a priority to get down to the police station and that he would’ve done whatever I needed from him if roles were reversed. I was a little taken back but went down to the station with my wife, without attorney and we both gave statements and fingerprints.
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A couple of months go by my brother and fiancé are now married and Thanksgiving is celebrated at my parents house. In attendance are my parents , my brother and his fiancé, my wife, my three boys and myself. I immediately had a weird vibe when we arrived. There were your normal family get together conversations and as the evening went on and everyone was drinking wine. My wife then brings up the question if my brother and finance are planning to have kids. My brother and his wife responded by saying they weren’t willing to have any children in that house until the fires stop and they find out who it is. My wife responded by saying that it was a shame because that house was meant for raising children. She would know because her parents raised her and her siblings in it. There was more conversation and the night ended on a good note I thought and everyone went home.
My brother calls me about a week later and asks if I’ll meet him at a local bar for a beer. I say sure and drove down and met him in the parking lot still in his truck. He asks me to get it and that he wants to talk to me about something. I get in the truck and he tells me “I know who’s been setting the fires to my house”. I’m looking at him with excitement, like they finally caught the person. He said “it’s your wife and I want her to do life in jail for arson and attempted murder”. He said “I know it’s her, mom knows it’s her, the police know it’s her”. I was speechless, all I could say was “what are you gonna say when you’re wrong ?” He said “ if I’m wrong I’m the biggest asshole on the planet and I’ll come knocking at your front door on my knees apologizing asking for forgiveness”. I immediately got out of the truck and flew home to call my mom to ask her if what my brother said was true and if she believed my wife had something to do with these fires. She said “she’s suspicious yes”. I then asked her if my dad thought my wife was suspicious and she said he wasn’t and that he scoffed at the idea. I hung up the phone and over the next month all I did was try to talk to my brother and mother and ask them why they thought this and that it was a misunderstanding and I’m sure it could be straightened out. My brother said “I don’t have anything to say, your wife can talk to the police” I wasn’t getting anywhere with him, and now police were really being pushy , asking my wife to take a lie detector test and give a dna sample because of evidence left at the scene. This was all to apparently eliminate her as a suspect. I was hesitant for her to offer dna because my wife and I were both at my brothers house a week prior to the first fire for a holiday party. Our dna was all over the house and what if they try to link my wife to the crime. I felt so helpless. At a time when you need your family in your corner to defend you they’re pointing the finger at your wife.
My brother told me why he thought my wife set fires to his house. He said we were jealous of him. He said my wife is mentally unstable and that my wife and I are obsessed with fire. He pointed out various examples. 1. We had tiki torches on our patio. 2. The AKC name of my dog was 4 Alarm Blaze. 3. I have flames on my tattoo. 4. My 3 year old son had flame prints on his socks at my brothers wedding to deliberately send ‘a message’. He stated how my wife goes running in the early morning and believes that’s when she set fire to his house. My wife was a runner, extremely fit, and with our chaotic schedules, the only time she could fit in running was before I went to work, around 5am. He also stated how he interpreted my wife telling everyone at Thanksgiving that house was meant for raising kids in was really meant to mean that house was meant for HER to raise HER children in. I was livid to say the least! I stopped speaking with him and consulted an attorney. I told him and the police there will be no lie detector test, no dna sample , anything else you have to say or ask can go through my attorney. He in turn said “attorney?! Why do you need an attorney if you don’t have anything to hide?!”.
I would see him at work and call him an asshole and give him the middle finger. I was so furious. Police were constantly driving past my house, following me, police dogs were sniffing my property. There was months of animosity that went by and then, his house was set on fire a fourth time, just days from being completely restored and him moving back in. Ironically it was the birthday of my oldest son so I immediately knew my brother and police would somehow try to make a connection with that. Police were calling me on the phone again questioning me. I told them my wife didn’t do it and to talk to my attorney. I didn’t hear anything for months. During that time I ended up getting a divorce. Which I’m sure police and my brother thought the reason for my divorce was because I must’ve learned my wife really did have something to do with the fires, I can only imagine. I moved out of town , police continued to try to contact me about the fires. About two years later, all this still weighing on me, I convince my ex wife to give a dna sample to police. She was always more than willing to help in any way from day one. She meets with police for a buccal swab and we don’t hear anything for 2 more years. Nobody gets back to her with results so we end up just waiting for years. It was like a dark cloud looming over my head daily.
Finally the dna match hits to a bank robber suspect in New Jersey. The story again makes news, all the guys at work talking about it. A couple of days go by and I don’t hear anything from my brother or police. I was expecting a huge apology, maybe tears, I don’t know, but nothing. I text my brother looking for an apology and also to apologize for anything I’ve ever done to upset him during this whole ordeal and or in the past. My brother ends up claiming nobody deserves apology from him and that I’m dead to him for harassment to him and not cooperating with police during this whole time. So I say well if you’re not going to apologize to me, at least apologize to my ex wife, “she didn’t do anything to you”. He said “she gets nothing , she should’ve cooperated with police” I believe he feels he is the victim here and he can do no wrong.
The suspect was extradited back and claims he set fires to the house to make room for a burial ground for his church. He confessed was tried and convicted of all fires. He is currently In psych ward. I didn’t speak to my parents over this for over 11 years because I felt extremely betrayed. I’ve talked to a shrink for over 8 years and only recently started a relationship with my parents again . I still don’t speak to my brother and see him at work every day. I’m at a loss of what to do. My dad is crushed by it all. What can I do?
TL;DR my brother accused my wife (now ex wife) with arson and attempted murder, was proven wrong (suspect caught, confessed, and convicted) and refuses to apologize or make amends and our relationship is tearing my dad apart
Early on in my working career, I spent some time in a group home helping to take care of rough kids. Almost inevitably, they came from a screwed up family, but they’d still want that familial love. I can still remember a kid saying that the father that abandoned him more than a decade ago and had barely bothered to keep in touch with him since was the one person in the world who really cared about him. It was tragic to hear that kind of delusion, but I get it. In life, the ONLY people that MAY ever love you unconditionally are your immediate family. It’s your parents, grandparents, siblings, and kids — love is conditional with everyone else, so it’s hard to give up on it.
That being said, just because they’re your family doesn’t mean they’re good people, trustworthy, reasonable or even sane. In this case, his brother’s reaction was ludicrous. There was never any real evidence linking his wife to the crime and the idea that she took gasoline with her on a morning run when other people would just be waking up, so she could burn down a house is ridiculous. Moreover, it had huge consequences in this guy’s life. Having the police breathing down your neck, family problems, tension at work and having to hire a lawyer — that was a black cloud hanging over his life for years. Then, to top it all off, when his wife was proven innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt, the brother kept being an ass about it. Given the situation, his brother is hitting a 10 out of 10 on the unreasonable scale.
How do you repair a relationship with someone who is being that unreasonable? Well, the reality is that you probably don’t. He has already reconciled with his parents and apologized to his brother, but his sibling, who is far more in the wrong, refuses to move an inch. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot he can do about that because it takes two to tango and quite ironically, people often have trouble forgiving those that they have wronged because it requires them to confront how abominable their own behavior has been. If his brother apologizes, in a sense, it’s acknowledging that he accused his brother’s wife of attempted murder for no good reason and put his own brother through hell for years over nothing. Can he handle believing that he’s that kind of person? Maybe not. So, he can want to reconcile with his brother, but will it ever happen even if he does everything right? It’s impossible to say.