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December 15, 2018

Defense lawyer: Jersey Shore suspect in torching of his home actually a hero who saved his family

November 24, 2018
Suspect Paul Caneiro was jailed for torching his home actually saved his wife and two daughters from the burning house in the hours before his brother and three other relatives were murdered a short ride away. (Handout)

A Jersey Shore man jailed for torching his home actually saved his wife and two daughters from their burning house just hours before his brother and three other relatives were found dead nearby, the accused firebug’s lawyer said Saturday.

Suspect Paul Caneiro, 51, remained locked up in the Monmouth County jail on aggravated arson charges pending a Wednesday hearing where prosecutors were expected to present a timeline of what exactly happened when his Ocean Township home and the nearby Colts Neck, N.J., house of younger brother Keith both went up in flames last Tuesday.




“We anticipate that we will call family members to indicate that (Paul Caneiro) in fact helped his family get out of their burning residence,” said defense attorney Robert Honecker. “He’s maintained his innocence in regard to these charges.”

Paul’s sibling was found shot to death on the front lawn of his home in the well-to-do Jersey suburb, and the badly burned bodies of Keith’s wife Jennifer, 45, and their kids Jesse, 11, and Sophia, 8, were discovered inside their $1.5 million home.

The second blaze was reported about 11 miles away and 7½ hours after firefighters responded to a pair of fires at Paul Caneiro’s residence around 5 a.m.

In this image made from a video provided by WABC firefighters battle a fatal fire on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Colts Neck, N.J.
In this image made from a video provided by WABC firefighters battle a fatal fire on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Colts Neck, N.J. (AP)

While no one is yet charged in the Colts Neck killings, authorities confirmed that all four were homicide victims. Keith Caneiro, 50, died of multiple gunshot wounds, but no other details were made public — leading to much speculation about a suspect and a motive in the fires and the quadruple murder.

Honecker, a former Monmouth County first assistant prosecutor turned defense lawyer, noted that Paul Caneiro was inside the Ocean Township police headquarters Tuesday when he first learned of the fire at his brother’s home.

“He is in the police station when the fire is reported,” said Honecker. “And he learns his brother has apparently died while in police headquarters. He got very emotional. He was devastated by the news.”

A criminal complaint against Paul Caneiro accuses him of using gasoline to set the blazes in the rear of the house and on the garage door “while his wife and daughters were inside.” An arson conviction comes with a jail term of 5-to-10 years in prison.

His family was hoping to visit with Paul Caneiro at some point in the Freehold, N.J., facility before the highly-anticipated Wednesday hearing. Prosecutors are expected to reveal what they have uncovered since the twin fires and the killings, and a county judge is expected to rule on whether Caneiro should get bail in the arson case.

The defense lawyer has described the brothers as best friends and business partners. The Caneiros shared two companies based in the same building on Cookman Ave. in Asbury Park.

“He still is at a loss to understand being charged with arson, and he’s concerned about the loss of his brother and family,” said Honecker. “He’s also concerned about his family and how they’re making out. Don’t forget, their home was destroyed.”

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