Keith’s brother, Paul Caneiro, was charged with aggravated arson in connection with the Ocean Township house fire and is being held in the Monmouth County Jail.
Gramiccioni said that authorities are looking to see whether the fires at the two homes are linked. He repeatedly declined to say if Paul Caneiro is a suspect in the murders of his brother and his family.
The quadruple murder in this quiet, upscale town clearly rattled law enforcement.
“This is one of the most heinous cases that I think they have ever investigated, that we have ever seen and there’s no shortage of that, unfortunately, in our history here,” Gramiccioni said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, speaking of his detectives.
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The family members were all victims of “homicidal violence,” that occurred before their estate was torched, but it remained unclear exactly when they were killed, Gramiccioni said. Detectives hadn’t yet been able to enter the burned out home to investigate as of Wednesday afternoon.
County engineers are also on site to ensure the crime scene inside the home remains secured and the damaged house is safe enough for detectives to begin collecting evidence inside. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is helping county authorities with technical aspects of the investigation, the agency said.
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The case took on a bizarre twist when authorities first confirmed that the home of Carneiro’s brother Paul was also set on fire early Tuesday morning. It got even more twisted when authorities alleged Wednesday that it was Paul Caneiro who set his own home ablaze, with his wife and two daughters inside.
The prosecutor ruled out that Keith and Jennifer Caneiro and their children were victims of “random violence.”
“We believe that in some form or fashion, that this family was targeted,” Gramiccioni said of Keith Caneiro and his family. That was in response to reporters repeatedly pressing him to explain how he could say the community was “not in danger” although no one has been charged with the murders.
“All four were victims of homicidal violence prior to when the fire was set at the home,” Gramiccioni said.
Jennifer Caneiro and her two children were found inside the house, Gramiccioni said. Their bodies were burned so severely it was difficult for authorities to identify them. Keith Carneiro’s was found outside the home; he had been shot more than once.
Gramiccioni would not say if the other three Caneiros had also been shot, pending the report by the medical examiner.
Paul Caneiro allegedly torched his own house on Tilton Drive at about 5 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said. Carneiro used gasoline to ignite the blaze in the two-story home, according to a police document.
Gramiccioni would not say where Paul Caneiro was arrested for aggravated arson, but he did say he had “no reason to believe” he resisted being taken into custody.
Paul Caneiro remained in the Monmouth County Jail Wednesday night following his arrest, according to county records. A hearing to determine whether he will remain in jail is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Gramiccioni would not say what might have motivated the accused to torch his home, but he said prosecutors may reveal more information at Wednesday’s hearing.
The fire at his brother’s Colts Neck estate less than 15 miles away was first reported at 12:38 p.m. Tuesday, about seven hours after the Ocean Township fire. A neighbor told the Press he saw Paul Caneiro in his Ocean Township neighborhood until about noon Tuesday, just before a landscaper first called authorities to report the blaze in Colts Neck.
Paul Carneiro’s attorney, Robert A. Honecker, said his client “maintains his innocence” of the arson charge “and any other potential charges.”
“The charge appears not to make any sense in that there seems to be very little evidence of a reason to do it,’’ Honecker said. “The evidence that I’ve seen does not suggest any reason to do the arson of his house.”
He called any link between Paul Caneiro and the murder of his brother and his family “pure speculation.”
The prosecutor said investigators are also “still exploring” whether there were financial problems within the family. He said it is his understanding that Keith and Paul were business partners.
Keith Caneiro was the founder and CEO of a technology company called Square One in Asbury Park. In a 2001 Asbury Park Press profile, Carneiro said his brother Paul was his first hire for Square One back when it was a fledgling business based in Brooklyn.
Keith Caneiro also appeared to be involved in a pest control company called EcoStar Pest Management and a technology consulting company called Jay-Martin Consulting, which both shared space in Asbury Park with Square One. The name Jay-Martin is derived from both Keith and Paul’s middle names.
Keith Caneiro told the Press in 2001 that he had a passion for computers and worked for free as a janitor at a computer store when he was a teenager.
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‘Traumatic and emotional’ impact
The killing of a family of four — including two young children — rocked this affluent town more typically associated with picturesque horse farms and rolling country hills.
Residents struggled to process the tragedy Wednesday, as many prepared to gather with their families for Thanksgiving. The sprawling country estates that line Willow Brook Road were a usual setting for the horrific crime that authorities say occurred there.
Inna Volshteyn, who lives near the Caneiros on Evergreen Lane, said her groundskeepers first alerted her husband about the fire on Willow Brook Road. Her husband went to the Caneiros’ home, which had its front door open, and saw a body laying face down on the floor inside. That’s when he called 911, Volshteyn said.
Volshteyn said Jennifer Caneiro was always smiling. Her daughter went to school with the Caneiros’ children and they celebrated birthdays together, she said.
But on Tuesday morning, the Caneiros’ children were not waiting for the school bus, and their absence, Volshteyn said, was “strange.”
Joy Gamache, who rents a horse paddock across the street from the family’s home, said a few years ago, Jennifer Caneiro came by to ask if her son Jesse could pet and feed her horses.
Ganache would regularly see the kids — she believes they were the Caneiros’ two children — feeding the horses carrots and leaning against the wooden fence a few feet across the street from their home.
A vigil was held Wednesday evening at Colts Neck town hall where a crowd of about 200 township officials and community members gathered to remember the Caneiro family.
“We in law enforcement know Colts Neck to be a quiet, safe and close, tight-knit community,” Gramiccioni said at his afternoon press conference. “I’m sure that you’re feeling the reverberations and the traumatic and emotional effects of the loss of the Caneiro family and our hearts in law enforcement go out to you.”
Gramiccioni urged anyone with information relevant to either investigation to contact the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-800-733-7443. Members of the public can also contact Colts Neck police Detective Rich Zarrillo at 732-780-7323 or Ocean Township police Detective Chris Brady at 732-531-1800.
The Monmouth County Crime Stoppers also accepts anonymous tips at 800-671-4400 or by email on their website. You can also text “MONMOUTH” plus a tip to 274637. The Crime Stoppers pay up to $5,000 for tips that lead to arrests.
Staff writers Michael L. Diamond, Stacey Barchenger, Erik Larsen, Ken Serrano, Dan Radel, Steph Solis, Mike Davis and Susanne Cervenka contributed to this story.
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Andrew Goudsward: @AGoudsward; 732-897-4555; firstname.lastname@example.org
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