Teen accused of killing his family on New Year's Eve appears in New Jersey court

LONG BRANCH, New Jersey (WABC) -- The teenager charged with killing his parents, sister and a family friend on New Year's Eve made his first court appearance in New Jersey Wednesday morning.

The 16-year-old suspect's name has not been released because he's been charged as a juvenile, though authorities could seek to move the case from Family Court.

He faces four counts of murder for the shooting deaths of 42-year-old Steve Kologi, his 44-year-old wife Linda, 18-year-old daughter Brittany and 70-year-old family friend Mary Schulz.

Monmouth County prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said there were three people who escaped the home on Wall Street in Long Branch, identified as the suspect's grandfather, brother and an acquaintance of Schulz. So far, a motive has not been identified.

Prior to the hearing, during which the suspect appeared via video conference, a judge ruled that media organizations would not be allowed to attend. The boy was due to make the appearance Tuesday in Family Court, where hearings are normally closed to the public. But that was postponed when media organizations sought to attend.

Authorities say someone in the home had lawfully acquired the Century Arms semi-automatic rifle used in the murders, but Gramiccioni declined to say which member owned the weapon.

"This is a heartbreaking family tragedy," Gramiccioni said. "This is a situation we often don't find ourselves in."

Five months before they were allegedly shot by their son, Steve and Linda Kologi were notified they were facing foreclosure on their home, court records showed. Then, in December, their lender asked a judge to declare the couple in default on a 2006 mortgage.

The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009, bankruptcy court documents showed. The Kologis listed income from his job as a mailman and $72,000 in credit card debt and a $15,000 car lease.

Hundreds gathered Tuesday night in Long Branch for a vigil honoring thee victims, sharing sentimental memories, warm embraces and tear-filled prayers.

The gentle glow of candles flickered in the brisk night sky Tuesday, reflecting just a fraction of the broken hearts in the Long Branch community.

* More New Jersey news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2020 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.