More than a week after two pre-Thanksgiving fires at the New Jersey homes of two brothers – with a family of four slain before their house was set ablaze – investigators hadn’t been able to uncover why they were killed nor who did it.
The case had baffled police in a tragedy that took the life of a Greek-American mother, Jennifer Karidis Caneiro, 45, her husband Keith, 50, and their two children Jesse, 11, and Sophia, 8. The father was found shot dead on the lawn outside the mansion in Colts Neck, a neighborhood that is home to celebrities but officials said it wasn’t a random act nor that of a serial arsonist.
Caneiro’s brother and business partner, Paul Caneiro, 51, was charged with setting fire to his home in Ocean Township, 11 miles and 15 minutes away, some 7 ½ hours earlier, while his wife and two adult daughters were inside but wasn’t named as a suspect in the killing of his brother and the Colts Neck family.
“We believe that this family in some form or fashion was targeted,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said after officials reported the victims were not killed by the fire but didn’t give a cause of death. The bodies of the mother and the two children were badly charred.
Keith and Paul Caneiro were partners at a technology firm in Asbury Park called Square One.
All four members of Keith Caneiro’s family were “victims of homicidal violence,” the prosecutor said, adding that there was no indication of suicide.
Colts Neck Mayor J.P. Bartolomeo said the Caneiros were well known in town and often seen at local shops or school sporting events.
Colts Neck, about 50 miles south of New York City, is home to Bruce Springsteen and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and his wife operate an animal sanctuary there. Current and former members of the band Bon Jovi also called it home.
Paul Caneiro’s lawyer Robert A. Honecker Jr., said his client was innocent of aggravated arson charges and the “potential charges,” and was at home when his brother was killed and the Colts Neck house set on fire, making it impossible for him to be at the scene of the tragedy.
The brothers grew up in Staten Island and moved to Brooklyn, the New York Times said, and they married women from Staten Island and moved to New Jersey.
Keith was the best man at Paul’s wedding in 1991, according to a wedding announcement in the Staten Island Advance. Honecker described the two as “best friends” in an interview.
SHATTERED LIVES, NO ANSWERS
Their parents, Sherry and Cesar Caneiro, are alive, according to Keith’s obituary. They also have a younger brother, Corey Caneiro, who also lives in Monmouth County and who has not publicly commented on the deaths.
Jennifer Caneiro graduated from the University of Albany and was active in the parent-teacher organization in Colts Neck, according to her obituary. Her family released a statement in which they said, “Our family is mourning the loss of a beautiful, loving daughter and sister, a wise and generous son-in-law and brother-in-law and two precious, innocent, wonderful children.”
Prosecutors have not stated what evidence led them to charge Paul Caneiro with arson. As officials were investigating both fires, they were also trying to determine if they were connected, Gramiccioni said. Officials have not publicly stated whether they believe the events are linked.
Paul Caneiro has not been charged in connection with the deaths or fire in Colts Neck, and prosecutors have not said whether he is a suspect or person of interest in the killings, the paper said.
The Colts Neck fire was discovered by a neighbor’s groundskeeper whos melled smoke coming from the Caneiros’ home, the Asbury Park Press said. He alerted his boss, who ran into the mansion and found the front door open. Inside, the man saw a body face down on the floor, his wife later told a reporter. Keith Caneiro was shot multiple times.
Authorities have said the family was “targeted,” but haven’t said why or by whom. No one has been charged and the cause of the fire has not been revealed. Even the time of deaths remain a mystery. If Keith Caneiro was shot multiple times outside his home, as prosecutor reported, did anyone hear the shots in a neighborhood where lot sizes are measured in acres?
Keith Caneiro and his family lived in a sprawling $1.5 million mansion on 10 acres, the home’s modern look contrasting with farmhouses and horse barns that dot the landscape of their affluent town of 10,000.
Besides running the technology company Square One that Keith Caneiro started, they had a pest control company EcoStar Pest Management. Public records showed no financial problems at either company, such as lawsuits or tax liens, the New Jersey paper said.
Friends of the family have said Keith and Paul and their families spent time together at holidays and major life events. Paul Caneiro’s two daughters watched their young cousins grow.
Sophia, a third-grader, was a “vibrant, enthusiastic and precocious girl,” who loved baking, ice skating gymnastics and the New York Yankees, according to her obituary.
Jesse, who was in fifth grade, was a budding history buff who could hold his own in a conversation about current events or either of the world wars, his obituary stated.
Jennifer Karidis Caneiro was also the family hostess who enjoyed throwing parties for relatives during holidays as well as exercising and traveling to her family’s home in Greece, according to her obituary.
Keith Caneiro, was a Columbia University-educated technology CEO who loved spending time with his family, an avid sports fan and a prolific reader who could finish off three or four books in a week, his obituary also read.