On the chilly eve of a holiday that represents coming together with family, Colts Neck did so as a town – to pray, to cry and to fondly remember a family gone so suddenly.
Hundreds gathered on the front steps of the town hall for a candlelight vigil honoring Keith and Jennifer Caneiro and their two children.
Jennifer and the kids, Jesse, 11, and Sophia, 8, were killed in a suspected arson at their home on Willow Brook Road in the township Tuesday morning. Keith was found dead on the front lawn from a gunshot wound.
The killings and the fire investigators believe was set after remain under investigation.
“I’d be lying if I stood here and told you this was easy,” Mayor JP Bartolomeo said after getting up to speak to the crowd. “We lost four really nice people from our community, who I happened to be friends with, who my boys were friends with.”
He said the Caneiros were well known in town and often seen at local shops or school sporting events. Later, he described Jesse as a baseball player and Sophia as a cheerleader.
“Thank you for representing that poor family,” Bartolomeo told the gathering.
Throughout the evening, a bitter cold wind cut through the crowd, leaving many shivering. Those with candlesticks were cupping their hands around the flames. But they continued on with the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers – the family were practicing Catholics, attendees said.
Afterward, they created a memorial on the top step of the town hall: family photos, candles, flowers, a teddy bear.
As the crowd thinned, people spoke of their shock, or their children’s sadness at losing classmates. Some who came did not know the family but nonetheless to come out and show their support for them.
“We’re surrounded not only by a physical darkness, but an emotional darkness,” said Pastor Chris Durkin of the Colts Neck Community Church. “We can still be thankful this Thanksgiving because we still have each other.”
He then asked the crowd to pray for the schools and their children before reading Psalm 23
Keith Caneiro’s brother Paul Caneiro was charged early Wednesday with setting a fire at his own home in Ocean Township. Authorities allege Paul Caneiro used gasoline to set the blaze while his wife and two daughters were inside, who were not injured, according to a criminal complaint.
Authorities are investigating a link between the incidents. The brothers were partners in business.
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