FREEHOLD, NJ — A Monmouth County grand jury has returned a 16-count indictment against Paul Caneiro, who is accused of murdering his brother and his entire family, and setting their Colts Neck mansion on fire to cover up those crimes.
The indictment released by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office charges Paul J. Caneiro, 51, of Ocean Township, with four counts of first-degree murder with the slaying of his brother Keith Caneiro, 50, his sister-in-law, Jennifer Caneiro, 45, his nephew Jesse, 11, and niece Sophia, 8, on November 20, 2018.
He also has been indicted on two counts of first-degree felony murder, two counts of second-degree aggravated arson, one count of second-degree possession of a weapon (firearm) for an unlawful purpose, one count of third- degree possession of a weapon (knife) for an unlawful purpose, one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (firearm), one count of fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (knife), one count of second-degree theft, one count of second-degree misapplication of entrusted property and two counts of third-degree hindering apprehension of oneself.
Preliminary examinations by the medical examiner’s office revealed that Kevin Caneiro, whose body was found on the front lawn of his house at 15 Willow Brook Road in Colts Neck, sustained one gunshot wound to the lower back and four gunshot wounds to the heard. Jennifer Caneiro, whose body was located on the stairs of the fire-ravaged house, suffered a gunshot wound to the head and multiple stab wounds to her torso. Jesse and Sophia, whose bodies were found in the home, suffered multiple stab wounds.
Money appears to be the motive for the crimes, according to a probable cause affidavit filed as part of the state’s case. The brothers owned Square One, a technology company, and EcoStar Pest Management, both in Asbury Park. Keith owned 90 percent of Square One and Keith and Paul owned Eco-Star equally, the affidavit states.
Read the two-part affidavit here:
When Keith discovered money was missing from the business, he indicated in an email to two business associates that he was going to discontinue payments to Paul’s wife, Susan, who was being paid Paul’s salary because he was disabled due to a motor vehicle accident, according to the affidavit.
After setting his brother’s home on fire to cover up the murders, Paul is alleged to have then set fire the mansion “in an effort to conceal and disguise” his crimes, before returning to his own home at 27 Tilton Drive in Ocean with items from the crime scene and started two fires outside his home at about 5 a.m., according to the prosecutor’s office.
During a search warrant of Paul Canneiro's home, registered firearms that included a Fiocchi 9mm and ammunition bearing the same headstamp as shell casings found near by the body of Keith Caneiro, were discovered in the basement, according to the affidavit. Additionally, an unspent 9mm projectile was founded in clothing secured by detectives in Paul Caneiro’s basement. A final determination on the ammunition is pending with the New Jersey State Police Ballistic Unit.
In addition, DNA testing revealed that the blood found on clothing and a latex glove placed in a plastic container — found by a New Jersey State Police K-9 cadaver dog in the basement at 26 Tilton Drive during the investigation — matched the blood of Sophia Caneiro, found on a knife at her Colts Neck home, according to authorities.
The joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Colts Neck and Ocean Township police departments has expanded to include FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, New Jersey State Police, New Jersey Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and Monmouth County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Paul J. Caneiro remains detained pending trial in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold.
If convicted of murder, Caneiro faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole on each count. Felony murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA). Aggravated arson carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, also subject to the provisions of NERA.
The remaining second-degree offenses each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, while the third-degree offenses each carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.
The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker and Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Wallace, director of itsMajor Crimes Bureau.
Defendant is being represented by Mitchell Ansell and Robert J. Honecker Jr. of Ocean Township.
Investigators continue to seek additional information about the case. Anyone with information about the Colts Neck murders and arson is asked to call Detective Patrick Petruzziello of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Richard Zarrillo of the Colts Neck Police Department at 732-780-7323.
Anyone with information about the Ocean Township arson is urged to call Detective Brian Weisbrot of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Christopher Brady of the Ocean Township Police Department at 732-531-1428.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by federal and state law.
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