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PEOPLE Explains: N.J. Teen Allegedly Fatally Shoots Parents, Sister on New Year's Eve

Chris Harris
People

Minutes before the the calendar turned to 2018, a teenage boy opened fire inside his family’s Long Branch, New Jersey, home, killing four people — including his parents and his older sister.

Authorities say the quadruple homicide was committed with a semi-automatic rifle, and that the suspect’s older brother, his grandfather and a 20-year-old family friend escaped uninjured. The teen has been charged as a juvenile and faces four counts of murder.

Here are six things to know about the case.

1. The Teen Suspect Has Been Charged as a Juvenile

Authorities have confirmed the name of the alleged killer, however PEOPLE is not reporting it because the suspect has been charged as a juvenile.

On Monday, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office filed formal murder charges against the boy in addition to one count of possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes.

“We are investigating this and are confident that it’s a domestic incident that’s completely isolated,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni told reporters, adding that it’s a “terribly tragic incident.”

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On Tuesday, Gramiccioni stated he intends to file a motion seeking the transfer of the case from juvenile to adult court. He has 60 days to file that request.

2. A 70-Year-Old Family Friend Was Among The Slain

When police arrived at the home, they found the bodies of the boy’s parents, Steven and Linda Kologi, who were 44 and 42 respectively, and his 18-year-old sister, Brittany. Also killed in the shooting was 70-year-old Mary Schultz.

Gramiccioni said the four victims were not all in the same room at the time of the shootings.

Linda and Steven Kologi

Schultz, according to prosecutors, lived in the home with the Kologis and was described by investigators as a family friend.

Prosecutors allege the teen was arrested without incident, and that they have recovered the alleged murder weapon.

3. Neighbors and Friends Were Shocked

The New Year’s Eve killings have shaken the people of the quiet shore town, with longtime neighbors and friends of the family expressing shock.

“Very hard to understand how this happened … Wouldn’t expect anything like this from him. This is out of the blue,” Joe Rios, a longtime family friend, told the Asbury Park Press. “Something must have happened because you never, ever thought something like this would happen with their family. Ever.”

The paper also spoke to Veronica Mass, who had known the family for years.

“I still can’t believe [he] did this,” Mass said of the alleged crime. “I can’t understand why he flipped out. I can’t think of anything.”

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4. Suspect Has Special Needs: Reports

Neighbors who spoke to the Asbury Park Press say the suspect had special needs.

The Daily News spoke to the boy’s grandfather, who says the teen has autism. The grandfather, Gregory Zawacki, told the paper he was unaware there was a gun inside the home.

Brittany Kologi

The boy’s brother, Steven Kologi, Jr., addressed the tragedy in an Instagram post one of his friends reposted to Facebook, reports NJ.com. He wrote: “My New Years resolution is to be as great of a parent as my parents were to me. Never once was I without a hot meal or a roof over my head … They made sure Christmas came every year although they struggled financially.”

5. Motive Remains A Mystery

Police are struggling to determine what sparked Sunday’s violence, but they are speaking with the boy’s brother and grandfather — the only witnesses to the gunfire — as they continue to investigate the horrifying incident, PEOPLE learns.

“We’re still working toward identifying a motive,” Gramiccioni said Tuesday.

PEOPLE has been unable to reach any of the Kologis’ relatives. But Walter Montelione, Linda Kologi’s cousin, told CBS New York the couple “were very caring, loving people and always looking to do fun things with their kids.” He said the suspect “was a good kid” who knows “right from wrong.”

6. The Shootings ‘Happened Fairly Sudden and Quick’: Prosecutor

Gramiccioni said the victims had little — if any — time to try to disarm their killer or talk him out of pulling the trigger. He said the killings “happened fairly sudden and quick.”

According to Gramiccioni, the rifle used in the killings had been legally obtained by one of the three people who managed to escape the home Sunday evening after hearing the first bursts of gunfire. The weapon was a Century Arms semi-automatic rifle, holding a magazine with 15 rounds.

One of the three survivors called 911, Gramiccioni explained.

A GoFundMe account has been established to help cover the family’s funeral expenses.

It is asked that anyone who may have any information about this tragic case call Detective Andrea Tozzi of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at (800) 533-7443 or Detective Michael Verdadiero of the Long Branch Police Department at (732) 222-1000.

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