NJ Case: Brother's Behavior Changed After Car Accident

Family friends say murder suspect Paul Caneiro struggled as his brother thrived
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2018 1:32 PM CST
Brother vs. Brother: Authorities Lay Out Murder Case in NJ
A booking photo provided by the Ocean Township Police Department shows Paul Caneiro.   (Ocean Township Police Department, File)

The details are brutal. Authorities in New Jersey on Thursday laid out murder and arson charges against 51-year-old Paul Caneiro, who is accused of killing his younger brother and his brother's entire family before setting fire to their opulent home. Then, authorities say, Caneiro returned home and set his own home on fire, allegedly to throw police off his tracks. If so, it didn't work. The details:

  • The killings: Caneiro fatally shot his brother, Keith, 50, multiple times outside Keith's home in Colts Neck early on Nov. 20, says Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. Then he allegedly went inside and killed Keith's wife, Jennifer, 45, and children Jesse, 11, and Sophia, 8. The children were repeatedly stabbed, and Jennifer may have been shot and stabbed, reports NJ.com.
  • The fires: After the murders, authorities say Caneiro set his brother's home on fire and, later, his own to create the illusion that the extended family had been targeted, reports the Asbury Park Press. The fire at Caneiro's own home in nearby Ocean Park was extinguished by firefighters before the home was badly damaged. Caneiro had roused his wife and two daughters, and they were not harmed, per the AP.

  • The motive: "Financial in nature," says Gramiccioni, without providing details. The brothers owned a successful technology firm (Square One) and a pest company (EcoStar Pest Management) together in New Jersey. Caneiro reportedly ran the pest company while Keith ran the tech firm. Keith's first hire when he founded Square One? His brother.
  • Frayed ties: The brothers had always been extremely close, but things had frayed in recent years, reports the New York Times. Friends tell the newspaper that Keith continued to thrive while his brother struggled, especially after a serious car accident five years ago. “I remember the family would complain sometimes about his behavior,” a family friend tells the newspaper. “He was frustrated, but not to the point to hurt his family members.”
  • Denial: "My client adamantly maintains his innocence and adamantly maintains that he would never hurt his family,'' Caneiro's attorney tells the APP.
  • Rich neighborhood: Colts Neck is one of the ritziest communities in the state, home to celebs including Queen Latifah, reports the Washington Post. It's also where Jon Stewart and his wife run an animal sanctuary.
  • No death penalty: Caneiro faces four counts of murder, along with arson and weapons charges, reports NBC News. New Jersey does not have the death penalty, but Gramiccioni says he would have pursued it if he could. “This one is the most brutal case that I’ve seen in my experience here,” he says. Caneiro is due in court Friday.
(In the immediate aftermath of the arrest, Caneiro's attorney said the suspect's wife and children stood by him.)

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