Couple indicted for alleged murder of Indian-American in New Jersey

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Trupal Patel, 29, whose body was found in Shark River Park, N.J. Feb. 22, after he was reported missing Feb. 9. (Photo: Monmouth County Supervisor’s Office)

A grand jury in Monmouth County, New Jersey returned a 13-count indictment May 15, against a couple charged in connection with the murder of Trupal Patel, 29, of Brick Township, N.J., whose body was discovered on the side of the road in Shark River Park Feb. 22. The announcement about the indictment is posted on the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s website.

Joseph Villani, 21, of Parkview Avenue in Ocean Township, and his girlfriend Raquel Garajau, 20, of Frontier Way in Tinton Falls, are named in the 13-count count indictment charging them with the Patel’s murder.

The first count is a charge of First Degree Murder according to a copy of the indictment which is available on the Prosecutor’s website. The second count is First Degree Robbery, during which a 22 Long Rifle Caliber Marlin semi-automatic rifle was used. The third count is first degree felony murder. The other charges include second degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, second degree Unlawful Possession of an Assault Rifle, second degree Disturbing or Desecrating Human Remains, three counts of fourth degree Tampering with Evidence, third degree Hindering Apprehension of Oneself, third degree Hindering Apprehension of Another, and third degree Tampering with a Witness.

If convicted of first degree Murder or first degree Felony Murder, Villani faces life in prison without parole. Garajau faces life in prison or a minimum term of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison, if convicted. Both crimes are subject to the provisions of the No Early Release Act (NERA), which requires the defendants serve 85 percent of any sentence above the 30 year minimum term.

Several townships jointly conducted the investigation including the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean Township, Wall Township, and Asbury Park police departments.

Patel’s body was found in Shark River Park by a Monmouth County Park Ranger who was collecting litter in the area. Patel had been reported missing to the Asbury Park Police Department by a friend on February 9. His black 2003 Jaguar was discovered abandoned on an Asbury Park street on that same day.

Ultimately, detectives involved in the investigation concluded the incident had occurred at Villani’s Ocean Township residence, according to the Prosecutor’s office. Villani was arrested for alleged murder on February 25.  He is being detained without bail.  Detectives concluded that Garajau allegedly conspired with Villani to commit these crimes and helped him destroy and conceal evidence.

Garajau faces life in prison or a minimum term of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison, if convicted. Both crimes are subject to the provisions of the No Early Release Act (NERA), which requires the defendants serve 85 percent of any sentence above the 30 year minimum term.

If convicted of first degree robbery, they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, subject to NERA.

If convicted of either of the second degree weapons offenses they each face a maximum of 10 years in state prison with a mandatory 5-year period of parole ineligibility. If convicted of second degree Disturbing or Desecrating Human Remains, Villani and Garajau each will face a custodial prison term of up to 10 years.

The third degree charges each have a maximum 5-year years in state prison. The fourth degree charges each lead to a maximum 18 months in state prison.