Paul Caneiro couldn’t have killed his younger brother’s family in their posh $1.5 million New Jersey estate — he loved them too much, his attorney claimed Friday.
“He loved his brother, loved his sister-in-law like a sister and loved those children. He would never do anything to harm them,” Caneiro’s attorney, Mitchell Ansell, told reporters outside of Monmouth County Criminal Court following the accused killer’s first court appearance. “There was no reason on this Earth for him to have harmed them.”
Caneiro is accused of shooting and stabbing his brother, sister-in-law and their two children in a grisly attack at the couple’s Colts Neck mansion.
The 51-year-old businessman then set fire to his brother’s home in an attempt to conceal his murder spree, prosecutors said.
He also set fire to his own home — with his wife and children sleeping inside — “for the purpose of both destroying evidence from his earlier crimes in Colts Neck and to also create the illusion that the overall Caneiro family was somehow victimized and targeted,” prosecutors said.
Dressed in a green prison jumpsuit with his hands shackled in front of him, the grizzled suspect limped as he was brought into the courtroom.
He sat quietly — his eyes cast downward, apparently lost in thought — as prosecutors reviewed the charges.
The multiple-murder suspect only spoke when the judge addressed him, answering “Yes” “No” or “I do.”
Ansell and co-defense attorney Robert Honecker waived their client’s right for a detention hearing, meaning Caneiro will remain incarcerated until trial.
Caneiro’s wife and children were not in the courtroom during the hearing. They support him, but everyone felt “it would be better for them not to be here,” his attorneys said.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni claimed Caneiro killed his brother’s family over money issues involving the tech and pest control companies they co-owned, but his attorneys disputed the motive Friday.
“The prosecutor said it has to do with money, but there has been no evidence presented to us at this point in time about that,” Ansell said.
“(Caniero) has indicated that he has never engaged in any conduct which would cause harm to his brother or his brother’s family and he intends to challenge the evidence,” Honecker said. “In his view he believes that when the case is finally resolved, he will be vindicated.”
Prosecutors said Caneiro repeatedly shot his 50-year-old brother Keith in the dark outside his sibling’s mansion at 5 a.m. on Nov. 20.
They said he then stepped over his brother’s body and shot and stabbed his helpless sister-in-law, 45. He then used the knife on his nephew and niece — Jesse, 11, and daughter Sophia, 8.
Caneiro set a fire in his brother’s basement before fleeing with evidence he had hoped to destroy, officials said.
Gramiccioni on Thursday called the multiple killings “the most brutal case I’ve seen in my experience.”