Whatever prompted the deaths of 46-year-old Hossam Armenious, his 36-year-old wife Amal Garas and their two daughters - 15-year-old Sylvia and 8-year-old Monica - the calculated killing of this Egyptian family was the foremost conversation topic as neighbors and detectives struggled to understand.
It was at approximately 4 a.m. on Jan. 14 that Jersey City police discovered the four bodies in different rooms, bound and gagged with wounds to their throats.
The 12 days that followed were filled with tension and speculation that came to a head at the family's funeral on Monday. There were angry words and shoving as police tried to restrain emotional funeral attendees who believed that Muslims were involved with the murders, a result of prevailing tensions between Egyptian Coptic Christians, which the Armenious family was, and Egyptian Muslims. Some said that Hossam Armenious had made comments against the religion of Islam in an internet chat room.
As of press time, no details had been released on possible suspects.
Update on the murders
The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office issued a press release last week giving more details on what Jersey City police encountered when they entered the Armanious home on Jan. 14.
According to the press release, "Hossam Armanious was found in a large bedroom. The search of the next room revealed the body of Amal Garas. Sylvia Armanious was found in the children's bedroom. Monica was found in the bathroom."
All four victims were bound. The release stated that "the autopsies revealed that each victim had suffered a sharp force wound/wounds to the throat," which were the preliminary causes of death.
The release said each victim had a Coptic Cross tattooed on the inside of their right wrist and that the tattoos were not defaced.
The press release mentioned some of the telltale signs in the apartment that indicated the grisly event may have been a robbery, such as a lack of money at the crime scene, Armanious' pockets having been turned out, an emptied wallet and pocketbook, and ransacked drawers. However, jewelry was evident in the apartment.
The press release took pains to downplay the religious aspect of the murders that has inflamed the emotions of many in the Coptic Christian community.
There were heated displays of emotion from some Coptic Christians during the funeral service for the Armanious family Monday at St. George's Coptic Orthodox Church on Bergen Avenue.
It was reported in various news outlets that some shouted for Muslims who attended the service to leave, and some held up signs outside the church and blamed Muslims for the murders of the Armanious family.
Police were left to calm hundreds of people leaving the service who were pushing, shoving and instigating some fights. No arrests were made.
Two unnamed Jersey City police officers, independent of one another, told the Hudson Reporter this past week that based on their years of experience in handling homicides and robbery cases, the murders could likely have been religious or even cult-like in nature. One officer said his reasoning comes from the fact that most investigations into homicides in any large city initially come with a solid lead pointing to low-level criminals operating within that city. However that hasn't happened in this case.
The officer wondered if those responsible for the murders were known to the victims and from out of town. The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office also noted in its press release that it was receiving assistance from the FBI in processing the evidence. Also, members of the Coptic community announced last week that a $500,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest of those involved with the murders.
'Who would do something like this?'
It may have been a brutally cold 10 degrees outdoors last Tuesday afternoon, but that didn't deter a number of people from stopping by the Armanious family's Oakland Avenue home.
There was a table set up on the sidewalk, its surface crowded with teddy bears and notes of condolence, and under the table were candles burning brightly on a windy day.
Well-wishers paused to study the pictures of the family and read words written in their memory. Two men got out of a car long enough to make the sign of the cross.
Resident Christina Bresnick came with her 8-year-old son Robert and two friends.
"Who would do something like this?" Bresnick said. "Whoever did this, I hope God punishes them."
Eight-year-old Robert added that whoever did this is going to get "bad luck."
A resident who lives several blocks away said that when came home from work the afternoon of Jan. 14, she saw many police officers gathered around the house but didn't know that it was connected with the murders of the Armanious family until several days later.
"When I found out, I didn't have the courage to come here until now," the resident said. "It's just so sad to see what happen to these nice people."