The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office says improperly discarded smoking material in a metal waste basket ignited the 3 a.m. blaze in Middletown that killed a mother, her sister and daughter, and the daughter's boyfriend.
The victims were identified as 63-year-old Sheridan Banovich; her sister, 60-year-old Denise Dusold; Banovich's daughter, 23-year-old Deidre Banovich, and the young woman's boyfriend, 25-year-old Anthony Cadalzo.
Banovich's husband Stephen, also 63, was the lone survivor of the blaze.
Neighbors said he was pacing across the lawn as his house burned, screaming for help. But the fire was too intense for anyone to enter the house.