Family financial dispute may be behind New Jersey mansion fire murders

A New Jersey man suspected of setting two fires — including one at his own home — to cover up the killings of his brother and his brother’s family will make his first court appearance on Friday.

Paul Caneiro, 51, is scheduled to have a hearing Friday morning at a Monmouth County court on an aggravated arson charge associated with the fire he allegedly set to his own home.

On Thursday, prosecutors also charged Caneiro with four counts of murder, one count of aggravated arson, one count of illegal possession of a firearm and one count of illegal possession of a knife in the deaths of his younger brother, Keith Caneiro, his sister-in-law and their two children last week. Their deaths were followed by a large fire at their mansion in Colts Necks.

He has not entered a plea on the new charges, records show.

Caneiro has been jailed since last week after police said he tried to burn down his Ocean Township home while his family was inside. Authorities believe he sparked both fires in “an effort to conceal or disguise his crimes” and create an illusion that the entire family was being targeted.

“This one is the most brutal case I’ve seen in my experience here,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said Thursday.

If New Jersey law allowed, Gramiccioni said, he would have charged this as a capital murder case.

Paul Caneiro’s attorneys, Robert Honecker and Mitchell Ansell, said their client has been wrongfully accused and that he “had absolutely nothing to do with these horrific crimes.”

“Paul’s family means more to him than anything else in the world,” they said in a statement.

“There is absolutely no reason in the world for Paul Caneiro to have committed the crimes he is alleged to have committed,” the statement continued. “He would never hurt any member of his family. The process today can begin for a search for the truth and who committed these horrendous acts.”

Prosecutors: Financial dispute motivated killings

Firefighters raced to the upscale community of Colts Neck last week when a fire broke out at a mansion. When they arrived, they made a gruesome discovery.

They found Keith Caneiro, who had been shot multiple times, dead in front of the home. The bodies of Keith’s wife, Jennifer, and their children, Jesse, 11, and Sophia, 8, were severely burned inside. Authorities said Paul Caneiro shot and killed his brother; shot and stabbed his brother’s wife, and stabbed their children.

After allegedly setting the mansion on fire, Paul Caneiro took documents from the crime scene and returned to his home and started another fire, prosecutors said.

Their homes are about 11 miles apart.

Caneiro helped his family evacuate and waited with his family until police and firefighters arrived, his attorneys have said. He then went voluntarily to the police headquarters in Ocean Township with his wife and two daughters, where the family was questioned.

The motive in the killings was financial, officials say, and stemmed from the brothers’ joint business ventures out of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Because of that, investigators also are looking into the defendant’s business dealings, Gramiccioni said.

Brothers worked together

The two brothers were business partners. Paul and Keith Caneiro are listed as the sole officers of a company that involved the sale and service of computers, New Jersey business records show.

The pair registered an Asbury Park-based company named Jay-Martin Systems that was doing business as “Square One,” records dating to 2014 show. A filing indicates that Keith was the company’s president.

The brothers were best friends who talked almost daily, Honecker told CNN, adding he had no reason to believe there was animosity between them.