4 in Colts Neck, New Jersey mansion fire killed by ‘homicidal violence’

"We believe that this family in some form or fashion was targeted."

Authorities gather Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, in Colts Neck,N.J., to investigate the aftermath of fatal fire that killed two children and two adults. Authorities say two adults and two children were found dead the day before at the scene of a burning mansion near the New Jersey shore.  (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
Authorities gather Wednesday in Colts Neck, New Jersey. –Noah K. Murray / AP

COLTS NECK, N.J. (AP) — Authorities say a family of four in affluent horse country was slain before their mansion was set ablaze, but assured the community a killer was not on the loose, hours after the homeowner’s brother was arrested Wednesday in an arson at his own home.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said authorities arrested Paul Caneiro, 51, and charged him with setting fire to his home in Ocean Township early Tuesday morning. Reports of a fire at his brother’s home in Colts Neck came in hours later, where the bodies of Keith Caniero, 50, and his family were found.

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Keith Caniero was found shot to death on the lawn of the family’s mansion. He had sustained more than one gunshot wound, the prosecutor said. Inside the burning house, authorities found the bodies of his 45-year-old wife, Jennifer Caniero, their 11-year-old son Jesse and 8-year-old daughter Sophia.

Those bodies were badly burned, and medical examiners still had not determined causes of death for them as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We believe that this family in some form or fashion was targeted,” Gramiccioni said. Referring to Paul Caniero, Gramiccioni said, “I can’t confirm or deny whether he is a suspect” in the murders.

It wasn’t immediately known if Paul Caniero had retained an attorney. He is charged with aggravated arson and will make a first appearance in court next Wednesday. According to a criminal complaint, Paul Caneiro used gasoline to set his home on fire while his wife and two daughters were inside. No one was injured in that blaze, which was reported at 5:01 a.m., about 7 ½ hours before the Colts Neck fire was reported.

The prosecutor said all four members of Keith Caniero’s family were “victims of homicidal violence,” adding there is no indication of suicide in his death.

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Keith and Paul Caneiro were partners at a technology firm in Asbury Park, Square One.

Colts Neck is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of New York City, and the upscale enclave is home to a number of celebrities, including Bruce Springsteen. Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and his wife operate an animal sanctuary there; Queen Latifah sold her mansion there in 2015, and current and former members of the band Bon Jovi have called it home.

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