The lives of Paul and Keith Caneiro had always been entwined. Born just a year apart, the brothers created businesses together, moved to the New Jersey suburbs to raise families, and appeared to be savoring the fruits of their shared labor, from ...
Firefighters responding to a house fire in Colts Neck, N.J., found Keith M. Caneiro shot to death outside his home and the bodies of his wife and two young children inside.CreditCreditNoah K. Murray/Associated Press
Nov. 29, 2018
The lives of Paul and Keith Caneiro had always been entwined. Born just a year apart, the brothers created businesses together, moved to the New Jersey suburbs to raise families, and appeared to be savoring the fruits of their shared labor, from handsome homes to luxury cars.
But lately, there had been signs that the relationship was unraveling, and on Thursday, Paul J. Caneiro, the older of the two, was charged with killing his brother, his sister-in-law and their two young children and setting fire to their $1.6 million home in upscale Colts Neck, N.J., just days before Thanksgiving.
The killings roiled this quiet, rural corner of Monmouth County, where there were 12 homicides last year, and shocked relatives and friends who knew the brothers to have been close.
“This one is the most brutal case that I’ve seen in my experience here,” Christopher J. Gramiccioni, the Monmouth County prosecutor, said in announcing the charges.
The bodies were discovered on Nov. 20, after Mr. Caneiro went to his brother’s house, armed with a knife and a gun, a complaint charged. After the family was dead, he set fire to the house to try to conceal evidence, Mr. Gramiccioni said.
Mr. Caneiro, 51, had previously been charged with dousing his own home with gasoline, about 12 miles away in Ocean Township, and setting it on fire on the same day that his brother, 50-year-old Keith M. Caneiro, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds outside his burning home. The bodies of the others — Jennifer Caneiro, 45, Jesse, 11, and Sophia, 8 — were found inside.
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Officials said they believed the motive was “financial” and are probing the brothers’s business ventures and financial dealings as part of the investigation.
In a statement, lawyers for Paul Caneiro said he is innocent. They said Paul Caneiro was a loving brother and uncle who cherished his family and was intimately involved in the lives of his young niece and nephew.
“There is absolutely no reason in the world for Paul Caneiro to have committed the crimes he is alleged to have committed,” his lawyers, Robert A. Honecker, Jr., and Mitchell J. Ansell, said. “He would never hurt any member of his family.”
The Caneiro brothers came from modest beginnings in New York City and together rode the internet boom to what appeared to be suburban affluence. But their relationship had begun to fray, friends said in interviews.
Raised in Brooklyn and Staten Island, they were the oldest of three boys in what was described by friends and neighbors as a warm, working-class family with immigrant roots. Cesar Caneiro, the men’s father, immigrated to New York from Spain.
Keith Caneiro showed an early aptitude for computers, according to a 2001 article in the Asbury Park Press, and after working at fast-food restaurants and as a janitor in a computer store, he started a company with his older brother in 1987 that installed computer systems. The company’s original name, Jay-Martin Consulting, drew on the brothers’ middle names.
“It was Paul and Keith all the time,” said a family friend, Demetris Potamianos. “It was the perfect helpful brother relationship.”
When Paul Caneiro got married in 1991, Keith Caneiro was his best man, according to a wedding announcement in the Staten Island Advance. And when Keith Caneiro married in 2000, Paul Caneiro was in his wedding party, too, a photo on Ms. Caneiro’s Facebook page showed.
As technology boomed, the brothers thrived. They moved to leafy Monmouth County, and the company headquarters went from a warehouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn, to a large brick building on a main street in Asbury Park, N.J.
Their company, renamed Square One, provided services to clients such as Citibank, Prudential and Ogilvy & Mather, according to a website that has been taken down. “We are plain spoken, common sense people who take pride in their work,” the site said. They also took over a pest extermination company.
The two brothers bought Porsches, tech gadgets and invested in spacious houses that were not far apart, though Keith Caneiro’s was the larger of the two, a sprawling modernist home bordered by farmland. On Thanksgiving and other holidays, extended family gathered at Keith Caneiro’s, whose love of food was well known, friends said. “Really loves veal and pizza,” Mr. Caneiro wrote about himself on his Facebook page.
While Keith Caneiro and his family continued to do well — traveling and attending New York Yankees games, a Billy Joel concert and the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” according to Ms. Caneiro’s Facebook page — Paul Caneiro was struggling.
About five years ago, he was seriously injured in a car accident and had several surgeries, according to co-workers and family friends. “I remember the family would complain sometimes about his behavior,” said the family friend, Mr. Potamianos, who is a hair stylist in Manhattan. “He was frustrated, but not to the point to hurt his family members.”
Paul J. CaneiroCreditMonmouth County Police, Fire & EMS
Paul Caneiro told co-workers he was a licensed gun owner and was known to visit a local shooting range. New Jersey does not publicly disclose gun permits, but Mr. Potamianos said that in 2015, Mr. Caneiro showed him and Keith Caneiro a collection of close to a dozen firearms he kept locked up in his garage in Ocean Township. It included several handguns and a few assault weapons, Mr. Potamianos recalled.
“But the last thing I can ever picture is Paul doing something like that. Paul was like a father to all of them,” Mr. Potamianos said. “Shocking is not the word.”
Several people said Paul Caneiro had recently been living apart from his family in another house in Ocean Township, though he had returned home. Meanwhile, tensions mounted between the brothers over business matters, the family friends said. Paul Caneiro had mainly been running the exterminating company, EcoStar Pest Management, while Keith Caneiro ran Square One.
Keith Caneiro was openly discussing the possibility of ending their business partnership, friends said.
Keith Caneiro had recently gone back to school, earning an undergraduate degree in history from Columbia University in 2014 and a master’s degree in technology management from the school earlier this year. Ameet Chaudhury, a classmate in the master’s program, said Keith Caneiro often mentioned his desire to try something new, potentially aiming to be a chief information officer at a large company.
“He would just mention it to everyone,” Mr. Chaudhury said. “He wanted to try something different.”
Mr. Chaudhury said Mr. Caneiro did not mention what he would do with the two companies he owned with his brother.
Keith Caneiro had begun pursuing jobs elsewhere and gone on interviews in the last few weeks, a family friend said.
There was no warning that tension between the brothers over the businesses, or anything else, had reached a crisis point, the family friends said.
On Nov. 19, days before Keith Caneiro and his wife planned to host a Thanksgiving feast in their Colts Neck home and the last day they were seen alive, Keith Caneiro attended his usual workout session at Aspire Fitness in the morning, his trainer, Brian Bott, said. Paul Caneiro went to work at the exterminating company and left at about 3 p.m., a co-worker said.
Before dawn on Nov. 20, Mr. Caneiro shot Keith Caneiro at his Colts Neck property, according to the prosecutor’s office. He then shot and stabbed Ms. Caneiro and stabbed the children before setting a fire in the basement of the house in “an effort to conceal” the evidence, said Mr. Gramiccioni, the prosecutor. Paul Caneiro returned home and set his own house on fire, the prosecutor said, planning to destroy evidence of his earlier crimes in Colts Neck.
“And to also create the illusion that the overall Caneiro family was somehow targeted or victimized,” Mr. Gramiccioni said. “We allege that it was a ruse.”
About 5 a.m. that day, smoke began to pour from Paul Caneiro’s home in Ocean Township. As firefighters extinguished the blaze, neighbors told reporters they saw Mr. Caneiro outside and spotted his family huddled in a car. Mr. Caneiro told one neighbor the fire must have been caused by a gas leak. Mr. Honecker, his lawyer, said last week that his client was innocent of arson and had ushered his wife and two grown daughters out of the house before they could be hurt.
“He always seemed like a really nice guy,” Kevin Harrington, a neighbor, said. “I never before witnessed anything that turned your eyebrow up.”
Miles away, in Colts Neck, when the school bus passed their home at about 8 a.m., Keith Caneiro’s children, Jesse and Sophia, did not appear.
Just after noon, a neighbor went to the Caneiro home after his landscaper spotted rising smoke. The neighbor said he opened a side door and was hit by a wall of thick, gray smoke. As he called 911, he saw Mr. Caneiro in the lawn, lying facedown in a hooded sweatshirt. Blood seeped from a gunshot wound in the back of the hood.
News of the family’s deaths rippled through their community and beyond. At a vigil in Colts Neck on Thanksgiving Eve, children lined up toys next to candles to remember Jesse, who was in the fifth grade, and Sophia, who was in the third. Obituaries posted online said Jesse, like his father, loved history. Sophia liked to bake.
The family of Ms. Caneiro declined to comment. They released a statement earlier this week saying they were mourning their daughter and son-in-law and their “precious, innocent, wonderful” grandchildren. A funeral is planned for Sunday in Holmdel, N.J.
Ms. Caneiro was remembered on Facebook by her sister, friends and former sorority sisters at the University of Albany, who changed their profile photos to include her, paying tribute to nights out and her love for her family and for the Yankees.
Mr. Caneiro was remembered fondly by his morning exercise companions. “He made new people feel comfortable,” his trainer, Mr. Bott, said. “He liked to joke around about the food he ate over the weekend.” Mr. Bott posted a video of Mr. Caneiro doing push-ups with his daughter on his back, and a photo of a chicken parmigiana pizza, purchased in Mr. Caneiro’s honor.
The family was also mourned on the small Greek island of Aegina, where Ms. Caneiro’s father, Vlassis Karidis, was born. He left in his youth to become a professional soccer player, before he met his wife, Bette Goldsmith, and moved to New York. “We cannot believe it on Aegina,” a friend, Nikos Ioannidhs, said.
The Caneiros spent many happy vacations on the island. There, they eschewed the comforts they had grown used to, preferring to live in a simple, inherited house, their Greek friends recalled, and to spend tranquil summer days at the beach. Their dream, the friends said, was to move there one day themselves and leave it all behind.
Nate Schweber contributed reporting. Susan Beachy and Doris Burke contributed research.
Follow Annie Correal on Twitter at @anniecorreal; follow Tyler Pager on Twitter at @tylerpager; follow Ashley Southall on Twitter at @AshleyAtTimes.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Before New Jersey Killings, 2 Brothers and Troubled Business Ties. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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