Colts Neck arson case: New Jersey man pleads not guilty to killing brother and his family, setting mansion on fire

Brother charged in N.J. mansion fire murders

FREEHOLD, N.J. — A New Jersey man charged with killing his brother and his brother's family at their home and starting a fire to cover up the murders pleaded not guilty Friday.

Paul Caneiro, 51, faces four counts of murder, along with arson and weapons charges, in the Nov. 20 deaths of his brother Keith Caneiro, 50; Keith's wife, Jennifer, 45; their 11-year-old son, Jesse; and their 8-year-old daughter, Sophia.

Authorities say the family members were shot, stabbed or both at their mansion in the affluent community of Colts Neck. They believe Caneiro set the mansion on fire to destroy evidence of the crimes.

Caneiro then set fire to his own home in nearby Ocean Township while his wife and two grown daughters were inside, authorities say. They escaped safely. Prosecutors say that fire was intended as a "ruse" to "create the illusion that the overall Caneiro family was somehow victimized or targeted."

Caneiro, who was shackled and wore a green jumpsuit to his first court appearance, was ordered held in jail until trial on all charges, CBS New York reports. He only spoke to spell his name for the record and to answer "yes," "no" and "I do" when asked by the judge if he understood various aspects of the court proceedings.

Investigators say Caneiro and his brother jointly owned a computer systems company and a pest control business in Asbury Park.

"The defendant's motive was financial in nature, stemming from his and the victim's joint business ventures that they owned and operated out of Asbury Park. As a result, we have also launched a financial investigation," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said Thursday.

Caneiro's attorneys maintained their defendant's innocence following the hearing.

"Paul Caneiro loved his brother, loved his sister-in-law like a sister, loved those children and would never do anything to harm them," said defense attorney Mitchell Ansell. "There's no reason on this earth for him to have harmed them." 

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