Larry is a true crime fan and has several years of experience reporting on true crime cases and hosts a true-crime podcast.
Setting the Scene
Before we dive into the actual crime, we need to set the scene. The Colts Neck Murders involves the story of a family business. A family business was built and grown in the famous Asbury Park. It also involved two houses about 20 minutes apart and what happened over the course of just 10 hours. This case is perfect for a Lifetime movie.
The scene is a township called Colts Neck. Colts Neck is part of Monmouth County and is within central New Jersey. Colts Neck is home to Bruce Springsteen and his ranch. It's a hot spot for ranches. Surprisingly it's still only less than an hour away from New York City. It's really a great place to live, with access to the Big Apple.
15 Willowbrook Road
In 2018, there stood a massive million-dollar mansion. Not just a run-of-the-mill mansion but a massive 10-acre mansion. Today you can purchase the 10 acres for one million dollars. Three years ago, it was owned by the Caneiro family.
On November 20th, 2018 at around 12:30 p.m., someone placed a 911 call to the Monmouth 911 emergency services. Firefighters quickly raced over to the mansion and discovered the body of someone on the front lawn. The mansion was quickly engulfed in flames.
It took firefighters hours to put out the fire. The house did not survive; it was completely destroyed. Firefighters were shocked to find three more bodies inside. Outside on the lawn was Keith Caneiro, inside was his wife, Jennifer and their son and daughter.
This was not normal for a community like Colts Neck. However, this was way beyond what could be considered normal.
27 Tilton Dr., Ocean Township
There was a lovely home, located in Ocean Township. While Ocean Township is not as rich as Colts Neck, it was still a very nice place to call home. There was another Caneiro that lived at 27 Tilton Drive, and it was Keith's older brother Paul and his family.
On November 20th, 2018 at 5 a.m., a 911 call was also made from the home saying their house was on fire. The Caneiro family had some bad luck that day. Luckily for Paul, his fire was a lot less deadly than his brother's fire. The only thing that died in the fire was a turtle.
Who Were the Caneiros?
The Caneiros were born and raised in Brooklyn and later moved to Staten Island. Paul Caneiro is the oldest, with Keith being on year younger, and they had a younger brother Corey, seven years younger than Paul.
Paul and Keith were extremely close, both marrying women from Staten Island, and Keith was even Paul's best man at his wedding. They eventually ended up in business together—co-owners of tech company Square One and a pest control company, Ecostar Pest.
Many people would say that Keith was the more driven and successful one. Keith was as a janitor at a computer store during high school, and he ended up around computers his entire life, leading him to create Square One.
Keith and Paul decided to purchase a pest control business. If you are successful right now and making a name in the community, why not diversify? Paul took over the pest control business, while Keith handled the tech company. This however would lead to their demise. Everything changed in 2012.
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Keith ended up starting multiple companies, earning a real estate license and a master's degree from Columbia University. Paul was also doing fine, until a serious car accident required that he get endless surgeries. He would end up with a limp and constant back pain.
Paul's Downward Spiral Begins
Things were not looking up for Paul. Nothing would ever be the same for him again. He eventually moved out of the Ocean Township home he shared with his wife and two daughters. He would move back in with them in 2018. They didn't share beds. His brother Keith even talked about ending their business partnership.
Keith seemed like he was ready to walk away from his businesses and do something else. Keith wanted to work at one of the bigger tech companies. Then November 2018 rolled around and it seemed like someone was out to get them both. Perhaps an angry customer.
Firefighters found Keith shot to death laying on the front lawn. Police later revealed he had been shot once in the lower back and four times in the head. Shell casings were found beside him, stamped with GFL 10 9x19.
Firefighters then continued their way into the burned house and discovered the two kids stabbed to death. Autopsies later revealed that a contributing cause of death for the two was smoke inhalation. They then discovered Jennifer dead on the stairs leading to the basement. She also was shot in the head and stabbed multiple times.
Police then learned something rather interesting as they began their investigation. Nine hours before they arrived and before the fire was reported, someone had called 911.
The First 911 Call
The 911 caller lived around three and a half miles away from Keith's home but heard five gunshots. Coincidentally, Keith had been shot five times. This was around 3:33 a.m. The police arrived in the early morning hours, but could not find a source of the gunshots. Another 911 call was placed reporting hearing gunshots at 3:10 a.m.
So whatever happened to Keith's family started at 3 a.m., with Keith being shot and then his wife and two kids being stabbed, followed by the house being set on fire. Shockingly, it wouldn't be reported for another nine hours. By this time, the whole house was consumed by the fire. Strangely, just two hours later, 20 minutes away, Paul's house was set on fire. Luckily he and his family escaped the fire.
Corey Caneiro Enters the Picture
Younger brother Corey's wife actually called the police, after hearing about the fire. They decided to quickly move to Pennsylvania. Smart decision after hearing the two brothers' homes were set on fire. They ended up moving to their grandparent's home.
Corey would later speak to the police and mentioned something very interesting. According to Corey, a day before the fires at around 7 p.m., Keith forwarded an email to him. It appears that he just wanted to keep Corey in the loop. The email was originally sent to two of his business associates.
The email said that Keith would not be paying a single penny to Paul's wife until funds that were discovered missing from the businesses were accounted for. Keith also said he wanted to sell the businesses.
Paul Caneiro's House Fire
This is where it gets interesting. Keith and Paul were co-owners of Square One. Keith was majority owner and Paul was minority owner. However, with the pest control company, they owned it 50-50.
When Paul got in the car accident, he was essentially screwed. However, with Paul's salary, they paid it out to his wife. This allowed Paul to collect disability. During this time, Keith and Paul had been arguing more and more over money.
Two hours after gunshots were heard in Colts Neck, emergency services responded to Tilton Drive. They discovered smoke and a small fire in the back of the house. Paul's whole family were there sitting in his Porsche Cayenne parked outside.
Something Doesn't Seem Right
Firefighters and investigators discovered a red gasoline can sitting on Paul's driveway, right next to another Porsche with marks on it—marks similar to gasoline spotting marks stains. In the rear of the house was a shed, and inside the shed were three more gasoline cans, with a space for one more. So stuff wasn't adding up for Paul's "story."
The good news is, Paul's home had surveillance cameras all over. Paul invited investigators to look at his camera footage. However, he later told them he might have turned them off cause they were slowing down his Wifi. He must have forgotten that the cameras were hardwired and would not use the internet.
The footage showed that on the 28th, around 1:30 am, Paul entered the garage and turned off the DVR system. Fire investigators determined it was arson done by someone stupid. Police then spoke to Paul's wife. She said she woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the smoke alarm. The couple had been sleeping in different beds. She had no idea Paul turned off the cameras.
The family escaped the house and got into one of the Porsches and sat in it until the firetrucks arrived. Investigators were not stupid—they knew what happened but were just looking for more evidence.
Neighbors Get Involved
A neighbor next door had their CCTV running that night. It recorded a white SUV driving toward Green Grove road at 2:07 a.m., from the direction of Paul's home. That road can take you anywhere, including Colts Neck. The SUV returned driving towards Paul's house an hour later.
The neighbor behind Paul also had a working CCTV, and it showed the car came and left from exactly Paul's house. According to camera footage:
- At 2 a.m., a car leaves Paul's house.
- At 3 a.m., three gunshots were heard in Colts Neck.
- At 4 a.m., the car returns to Paul's home.
- At 5 a.m., Paul's house fire starts.
- At 12 p.m., the fire is discovered at Colts Neck.
Investigators secured a warrant and searched one of Paul's Porsches. Inside they discovered parts of a 9mm handgun, a suppressor, night vision, thermal vision attachments for a firearm.
Then on the 23rd, they searched the house and found a safe. Inside the safe were multiple guns, ammo that happened to be stamped with GFL 10 9x19. Beside the location where the fire had started was a plastic container. Inside the container was bloody clothing. The clothing was taken for testing and the blood was proven to belong to eight-year-old Sophia.
End of the Road of Paul
Paul was quickly arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder, one count of aggravated arson and two weapons charges. Employees said that Paul was acting normal the day before, just working and listening to his iPod, like he normally does.
The case was originally supposed to go to trial in 2021. Paul was also charged with getting disability while working, which carries a possible sentence of 10 years in jail. Paul also faced a wrongful death suit from Jennifer's father, which he alleges that Paul stole $90,000 from Keith.
Keith and his wife discovered that Paul was stealing money from college funds that Keith had set up for his two children. Paul managed to steal $90,000 and put into funds for his own kids. Paul eventually ended up pleading not guilty.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Lawrence Lease