Family of 4 slain before Colts Neck fire — Is Uncle Paul a killer?
COLTS NECK — A couple, their 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son were brutally killed before their house erupted in flames Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors said Wednesday in a update that left unanswered the questions of who did the deed and why.
Keith Caneiro, 50, was found shot dead outside the mansion on Willow Brook Road. The burned bodies of his family were discovered inside by responders.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni refused to say Wednesday whether Caneiro's 51-year-old brother, Paul, was a suspect in the quadruple homicide and fire.
Paul has, however, been charged in the aggravated arson of his own home in Ocean Township. Police said Paul Caneiro's wife and two grown daughters were inside the Tilton Drive home and escaped the gasoline-fueled fire, reported at 5:01 a.m., hours before the Colts Neck fire was reported at 12:38 p.m.
Gramiccioni said there was no danger to the community and that there was no suspect on the run. But citing state court rules that bar prosecutors from tainting potential jurors in a criminal case, he declined to confirm or deny whether the brother was a suspect in the homicide case.
One reason why a suspect has not been charged is that the fire has made it impossible at this point for investigators, including the FBI, to comb the scene for evidence. They have to wait for the structure to be declared safe.
"We can’t charge people unless we have evidence," Gramiccioni told reporters Wednesday at his office. "I told you that the scene is secured, but we can’t even send, largely, our investigators and forensic examiners in there to look at the scene because we’re waiting for county engineers to release it — to be able to tell us it’s safe, the roof’s not gonna cave in on you, the floor’s not gonna cave into the basement."
Paul Caneiro was being held at the Monmouth County jail awaiting a detention hearing next Wednesday. New Jersey 101.5 did not know whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
He and his brother were business partners in a pest management company. Keith Caneiro was CEO and chief technology officer for an Asbury Park-based company called Square One.
Gramiccioni had few other details about the Colts Neck fire, including how it started.
The news of the fire and homicides has rocked the region. Colts Neck is an affluent community of multi-acre lots belonging to celebrities, corporate executives and horse farms. But not even this ZIP code could escape what Gramiccioni called "one of the most heinous cases" that detectives had ever seen.
Gramiccioni did not say where exactly in the house Keith's wife and kids — Jennifer, 45, Jesse and Sophia — were found or how they were killed, saying only that they died of "homicidal violence."
Gramiccioni said that while investigators were positive that Keith and Jennifer's bodies were correctly identified, he said the identification of the two children was "tentative" until a final determination by a medical examiner.
He said there was no reason to believe that Keith's injuries were a result of a suicide, but declined to discuss whether any weapons had been recovered.
"We’re operating under the presumption that these were all victims of homicide. We have no reason to believe at this point that there was a suicide angle," the prosecutor said.
He also declined to speculate or discuss questions of motive. Police on Tuesday said that they were not immediately aware of any police activity or domestic disturbances at the Colts Neck home.
In the Ocean Township fire, investigators say Paul Caneiro set the fire while his wife slept in a second-floor bedroom. When authorities arrived, they saw a fire in the rear of the house and second blaze on the door of the attached garage. Caneiro was outside with his wife and children, prosecutors said.
Have information about these fires?
Authorities ask anyone with information about the Colts Neck fire to call Prosecutor's Detective Patrick Petruzziello at 800-533-7443 or Colts Neck Detective Richard Zarrillo at 732-780-7323.
Anyone with information about the Ocean Township fire is asked to call Prosecutor's Detective Brian Weisbrot at 800-533-7443 or Ocean Township Detective Christopher Brady at 732-531-1428.
Prosecutors are accepting anonymous information via the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential tip-line at 800-671-4400; by texting “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or sending an email through the form at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.
Monmouth County Crime Stoppers has offered awards of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest.