FREEHOLD BOROUGH — Paul Caneiro will remain behind bars following his detention hearing on charges he killed his brother's whole family, set fire to their home, and set his own home ablaze with family members inside.

Caneiro was charged with four counts of first-degree murder on Thursday by Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni in the deaths of his brother Keith, wife Jennifer, their 8-year-old daughter Sophia, and 11-year-old son Jesse last Tuesday at their Colts Neck home.

Gramiccioni said investigators believe Caneiro set his own home in Ocean Township on fire around 5 a.m. after killing his brother and his family in Colts Neck and setting the Colts Neck home on fire. Prosecutors say that blaze was both meant as a "ruse" to mask the killings and as way to destroy evidence.

Attorneys for Paul Caneriro speak with the media
Attorneys for Paul Caneriro speak with the media (DIno Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

Gramiccioni ordered Caneiro to remain detained on all charges. Caneiro's attorney, Robert Honecker, agreed to combine detention hearings for both cases. Caneiro entered a not guilty plea to all charges.

Caneiro's family did not appear in the Monmouth County Superior Courthouse for the hearing.

The initial complaint against Paul Caniero alleged he used gasoline to set ablaze his  home on Tilton Avenue while his wife and two college-age daughters slept inside.

Paul Caneiro's Ocean Township home
Paul Caneiro's Ocean Township home (Bud McCormick)

Following the hearing Honecker and defense team member Mitchell Ansell maintained their client's innocence.

"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 has been gathered by the prosecutor’s office in this case," Honecker said. Certainly, in his view he believes that when the case is finally resolved, that he’ll be vindicated."

Ansell said that Caneiro loved the family and he "would never do anything to harm them" and called the case a "search for the truth."

"There’s no reason on this earth for him to have harmed them," Ansell said.

Honkecker said the defense agreed to combining detention hearings because "when an individual is charged with four counts of murder, the likelihood of him being released from detention is pretty close to zero. So in an effort to not expend any additional resources and also give us the opportunity to get the evidence from the prosecutor’s office, evaluate it and begin to prepare our defense we thought it would be wise that we would not contest this hearing today."

Earlier, Honeker said Caneiro he heroically saved his wife and two adult daughters from the Ocean Township fire. Gramiccioni said investigators do not believe that he tried to kill his own wife and kids.


Previous reporting by Sergio Bichao was used in this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ


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