March 4, 2005 -- An ex-con and former upstairs neighbor reportedly was being grilled last night in the savage stabbing deaths of a Jersey City family of four.

Detectives picked up the man, identified by a relative as Edward McDonald, 25, after reviewing surveillance videos from ATMS in Jersey City and Manhattan, WABC-TV and WNBC-TV reported.

The ex-con was providing detailed information about the case but claimed a second man was responsible for the horrific slaying of the devout Coptic Christian family, WABC said.

Hudson County Prosecutor Edward De Fazio did not return calls seeking comment.

He has said, however, that after the slaying of Hossam Armanious, his wife and two daughters, someone using Armanious' ATM card withdrew thousands of dollars from his bank accounts.

The bodies of Armanious, 47, his wife, Amal Garas, 37, and their daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were found bound and stabbed in their Oakland Avenue apartment on Jan. 14.

The killers tortured Monica until her father gave up his PIN number, but murdered the family anyway, WABC reported.

The slayings reignited tensions between Jersey City's Egyptian Coptic Christian and Muslim communities, with Coptics blaming the killings on Islamic extremists.

McDonald is a parolee and father of two who lived on the floor above the Armanious family. After the murders, he moved to an apartment about a mile away, where he was picked up, neighbors and the relative said.

New Jersey Department of Corrections records show that on Feb. 22, 2002, McDonald was sentenced to three years in the slammer for distributing drugs on school property.

He was paroled on Sept. 9, 2003, after serving about 18 months.

Neighbors said cops posing as building inspectors picked up McDonald at about 3 p.m. after waiting for him to return from work.

U.S. Copts Association president Michael Meunier says the family had a revolving credit line of $50,000 but had to take out a $120,000 home-equity loan to pay it off. The money left over was deposited in the bank, he said.

Additional reporting by Andy Geller



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