National News

Lawyer Defends Man Over Fires and Brother’s Death

Posted November 22, 2018 8:43 p.m. EST

Suspicion has swirled around the brother of a New Jersey man killed with his wife and two children Tuesday at their home, which erupted in a large, suspicious fire.

But a lawyer for the man, Paul Caneiro, defended his client Thursday and said he was at home when his brother was killed and his house sent up in flames.

“He loved him,” the lawyer, Robert Honecker, said in an interview. “And he would not do his brother any harm.”

Caneiro was charged Wednesday with setting a predawn fire at his Ocean Township home as his wife and daughters slept inside. No one was injured in that blaze.

But firefighters responding to a fire about seven hours later, 12 miles away in Colts Neck, New Jersey, made a gruesome discovery: the bodies of Keith Caneiro, 50; his wife, Jennifer Karidis Caneiro, 45; and their children, James, 11, and Sophia, 8.

Keith Caneiro was found shot to death outside; his wife and children were inside the burning house.

Paul Caneiro remains jailed on aggravated arson charges for the fire at his home, and he has not been accused of any additional crime.

But as investigators continued scouring for clues Thursday to determine whether he played a role in the Colts Neck fire, Honecker offered a full-throated defense.

“He maintains his innocence on the current charge and the potential charges,” Honecker said. “His family fully supports him as he moves forward with his defense, and he expects to be fully exonerated as this case is resolved.”

Honecker called the Caneiro brothers “best friends” and said there was no reason to believe there had been any serious conflict between them. The men were also business partners in two companies, Square One, a technology consulting firm, and EcoStar Pest Management, a pest control firm, both in the same building in Asbury Park.

Caneiro is set to make his first court appearance next week, when prosecutors are expected to expound on what investigators believe transpired at the brothers’ homes. He is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Monmouth County Superior Court before Judge James McGann, who will decide whether to release him or keep him in custody.

Monmouth County officials were not available to comment Thursday. Government offices were closed because of Thanksgiving.

The home of Keith Caneiro’s family in Colts Neck remained a crime scene Thursday as investigators worked just beyond a police barricade.

Officials have not said how Jennifer Caneiro and the children died, and it was not clear whether their autopsies had been completed.

Around 5 a.m. Tuesday, police and fire agencies rushed to Paul Caneiro’s home at 27 Tilton Drive, where they put out a fire at the back of the home and a smaller blaze on the attached garage door, according to the Monmouth County district attorney’s office.

Caneiro’s wife had been sleeping in a second-floor bedroom when the fires started, officials said, but she, her husband and their two children met the emergency workers outside and were not harmed.

At the court hearing Wednesday, Monmouth County prosecutors are expected to argue that Caneiro should be held in jail because he is a flight risk or a danger to public safety, or both, his lawyer said.

“We’re going to challenge both their probable cause to charge him as well as the two-pronged reason for detaining him,” Honecker said. If convicted of arson, Caneiro would face a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

His family believes he is innocent, the lawyer said.

“They are the alleged victims in this case,” he continued. “They love and fully support him.”