Colts Neck Family Deaths Ruled Homicide, Fire Determined to Be Arson

FREEHOLD – Investigators continue to follow leads in the investigation of a fatal house fire in Colts Neck Tuesday afternoon that tragically took the lives of four family members, and another fire in Ocean Township that resulted in the arrest of the homeowner, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

The bodies recovered were tentatively identified as Keith Caneiro, 50, his wife Jennifer, 45, son Jesse, 11, and 8-year-old daughter Sophia. The four were all discovered Tuesday afternoon after fire was reported at the residence at 15 Willow Brook Road in Colts Neck. A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Colts Neck Police Department is treating this as a homicide case since it appears the victims all died of homicide prior to the home being purposefully set on fire.

“The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Colts Neck Police Department are investigating this matter as a multiple homicide and arson case,” Prosecutor Gramiccioni said.

Keith Caneiro was found in front of the home with gunshot wounds, while the three remaining family members were all found severely burned inside the home. The cause and manner of death are pending from the Middlesex Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

Investigators are working closely with county engineers to ensure the structure is safe for entry and a forensic examination. The joint investigation is also being assisted by the New Jersey State Police; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; New Jersey Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.

At the fire scene, assistance was provided by Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management; Neptune Township Office of Emergency Management; Monmouth County Emergency Services; Holmdel, Middletown and Marlboro townships police departments.

In the Ocean Township blaze, Paul J. Caneiro, 51, is charged with purposefully setting fire to his Tinton Avenue home early Tuesday morning while his wife slept in a second floor bedroom. Caneiro is charged with one count of second degree Aggravated Arson in connection with the fire at his Ocean Township residence early Tuesday morning.

Ocean Township police and fire responded to 27 Tilton Drive in the Wayside section of Ocean Township on a report of smoke inside the residence around 5:01 a.m.  First responders arrived on scene to discover fire to the rear of the residence and second smaller fire on the garage door attached to the home. Caneiro, his wife and two children were all outside their residence when first responders arrived.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Monmouth County Fire Marshal’s Office and Ocean Township Police Department determined the fire is of an incendiary nature.

Caneiro is scheduled for an initial appearance and detention hearing on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge James J. McGann.

Anyone with information about the Colts Neck fire is asked to call Detective Patrick Petruzziello 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 fire 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.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about these incidents can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at  Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives.

If convicted of Aggravated Arson, Caneiro faces a sentence of five to ten years in prison, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. He would also be under parole supervision for five years following his release from state prison. The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Decker, Director of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau.

The Aggravated Arson case pending against Caneiro is being handled by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Wallace.

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 the U.S. Constitution and State law.

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