Keith, Jen­nifer, Jesse and Sophia Caneiro were mur­dered in their New Jer­sey home be­fore it was set ablaze. Now, po­lice say their killer is a mem­ber of the fam­ily

WHO - - Exclusive - By Chris Har­ris

Just days be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, Keith and Jen­nifer Caneiro were mak­ing hol­i­day plans, look­ing for­ward to host­ing ex­tended fam­ily for their tra­di­tional cel­e­bra­tion at their Colts Neck, New Jer­sey home. The cou­ple and their kids – ath­letic 8-year-old Sophia, a Girl Scout who loved bak­ing with her grand­mother, and Jesse, a his­tory buff who’d re­cently cel­e­brated his 11th birth­day – were well known and liked on up­scale Wil­low Brook Road, where they’d lived for more than a decade. Neigh­bours would stop to talk to Keith, 50, about the peach trees he tended in the front yard and Jen­nifer, 45, was ac­tive in the ele­men­tary school par­ent-teacher or­gan­i­sa­tion.

But on Nov. 20, 2018, neigh­bours noted that Jesse and Sophia hadn’t made their usual sprint to the school bus stop and then saw a dark cloud fill­ing the sky above the Caneiro home. “I opened the door, and there is smoke com­ing out,” neigh­bour Boris Vol­shteyn told the emer­gency dis­patcher. Af­ter a pause his shock re­ver­ber­ated down the line: “There is a per­son lay­ing down on the prop­erty in front of the house. My God … there’s blood here.”

Min­utes later au­thor­i­ties were hor­ri­fied to dis­cover the dead bod­ies of all four mem­bers of the Caneiro fam­ily at the $1.8 mil­lion home: Keith was out­side with mul­ti­ple gun­shot wounds, Jen­nifer had been shot and stabbed, and Jesse and Sophia were both stabbed. And in an odd twist, they re­alised that a 911 call had come in ear­lier that morn­ing from the home of Keith’s brother and busi­ness part­ner Paul, 51, about 20 kilo­me­tres away. That home too had

been set ablaze – although Paul and his wife, Su­san, 51, as well as daugh­ters Marissa, 23, and Kate­lyn, 26, had all es­caped un­harmed.

But what looked on the sur­face to be ei­ther a tragic co­in­ci­dence or a tar­geted at­tack of the ex­tended Caneiro fam­ily was ac­tu­ally an in­sid­i­ous mur­der plot, au­thor­i­ties say. On Nov. 29 po­lice charged Paul with four counts of mur­der as well as ag­gra­vated ar­son. In­ves­ti­ga­tors al­lege that Paul killed Keith and then mur­dered the rest of the fam­ily, set fire to their home and then set fire to his own to de­stroy ev­i­dence as a “ruse de­signed to make it ap­pear as if the over­all Caneiro fam­ily was some­how tar­geted,” says Mon­mouth County pros­e­cu­tor Christo­pher Gram­ic­cioni. “We be­lieve the de­fen­dant’s mo­tive was fi­nan­cial in na­ture, stem­ming from his and the vic­tim’s joint busi­ness ven­tures.” Paul has en­tered not guilty pleas on all the charges. “He would never hurt any mem­ber of his fam­ily,” his at­tor­neys Robert A Ho­necker Jr and Mitchell J Ansell said in a state­ment.

By all ac­counts Keith and Paul were close. Raised in Brook­lyn and Staten Is­land, the brothers moved to New Jer­sey dur­ing the late 1980s. Keith, a com­puter savvy, hard-work­ing en­tre­pre­neur – as a teen he cleaned the shelves at a com­puter store for free just for ac­cess to the com­puter man­u­als – launched his own com­puter and tech­nol­ogy con­sult­ing busi­ness in 1989, land­ing premier clients like Citibank. His first of­fi­cial hire was his brother Paul, whom he named di­rec­tor of tech­ni­cal ser­vices. In five short years the busi­ness was gen­er­at­ing nearly $9 mil­lion a year in rev­enue, and the brothers were liv­ing lav­ishly, with mul­ti­ple lux­ury cars and in­ter­na­tional

va­ca­tions. “They were wild,” re­calls Michael Schwartz, a re­tired Porsche sales­man who sold cars to the brothers. “They’d run ram­pant around the show­room, go­ing from car to car. Keith was def­i­nitely the nicer one … Paul was more abra­sive.”

By 2012 the brothers had also taken over a lo­cal pest-con­trol busi­ness, with both busi­nesses op­er­at­ing out of Asbury Park, New Jer­sey. “Keith is one of the bright­est peo­ple I’ve ever known,” says Con­nie Thana­soulis, who had worked with the brothers. “He was the linch­pin of that fam­ily.”

He was also al­ways look­ing ahead and eval­u­at­ing how tech­nol­ogy – and his com­pa­nies – were evolv­ing, she says. Af­ter en­rolling in Columbia Univer­sity to com­plete an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in 2014, he earned a Master of Sci­ence in Tech­nol­ogy Man­age­ment there in 2018. “He’d said, ‘My busi­ness is chang­ing and the land­scape is chang­ing – I need to be able to pro­vide for my fam­ily,’ ” says Thana­soulis, a life coach. “I was help­ing him do that.”

Some close to the fam­ily say that Paul’s prospects did not seem as bright as his brother’s. A se­ri­ous car wreck in Novem­ber 2012 left him with chronic pain – he had filed law­suits against the driver of the other ve­hi­cle and his own in­sur­ance com­pany. And au­thor­i­ties are con­duct­ing an ex­ten­sive fi­nan­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Caneiro brothers’ joint ven­tures to fur­ther as­sess mo­tive, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tor Gram­ic­cioni.

What­ever hap­pens next – Paul will re­main in Mon­mouth County jail un­til his as-yet-un­sched­uled trial – the Caneiros’ neigh­bour­hood will never be quite the same. The chain­link fence around the boarded-up, fire-scarred home at 15 Wil­low Brook Road, Colts Neck, car­ries homemade tributes to the fam­ily, with chil­dren’s hand­writ­ten

“They were a lovely fam­ily. What hap­pened to them was pure evil” — neigh­bour Frances Purdy

scrawls, and cut-out pink hearts bear­ing wit­ness to the vi­brant lives lost. “Jesse liked to ride his Seg­way. Sophia loved mac and cheese from the box,” says a fam­ily friend. “Keith knew where all the best pizza places were, he was like our guide. [Jen­nifer] was ac­tive, spent a lot of time with their kids. Those kids were their pride and joy. I miss them a lot. I think about them ev­ery sin­gle day. I just want peo­ple to know who they were … very lov­ing.”


Paul Caneiro (right) is charged with killing his brother Keith, sis­ter-in-law Jen­nifer, niece Sophia and nephew Jesse in their Colts Neck, New Jer­sey, man­sion (left) be­fore set­ting it on fire. He has en­tered not guilty pleas on all charges.

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