🚨 A business owner was killed inside her shop in March 1996

🚨 Officials haven't talked to anyone who saw the crime occur

🚨 The business is still owned by the victim's husband


NEPTUNE CITY — Twenty-eight years ago on a Friday morning, the owner of a convenience store was murdered while working in the shop. Officials still don't know who's responsible.

Local and county officials are hoping that a reminder of the tragedy will jog the memory of locals or convince someone to come forward with pertinent information.

"Just because a case is considered cold does not mean that we consider it hopeless," said Neptune City Police Chief Matthew Quagliato. "Every victim deserves justice."

Officials say 35-year-old Smita Amin Patel, co-owner of Little Brown Jug, was murdered inside the business on March 22, 1996. The Tinton Falls resident was discovered by a customer, and an investigation began.

According to officials, Patel was working alone when she was attacked. Patel had co-owned the convenience store with her husband.

The deadly attack occurred between approximately 9:50 a.m. and 10 a.m. that day, officials said.

According to Quagliato, they haven't talked to any witnesses that observed the crime. But they followed up on witness accounts regarding suspicious people in the area that day.

Little Brown Jug (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)
Little Brown Jug (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)
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Little Brown Jug still exists today, in the Gables shopping center along Route 33, across from Jersey Shore University Medical Center. It is still owned by Patel's husband, according to officials.

"Twenty-eight years later, there are tools available to us in law enforcement that didn't exist back in 1996," said Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond Santiago. "So it's with that mindset that we look at these cases and say, 'What can we utilize today ... that we didn't have then?'"

Anyone with information related to the case is urged to contact MCPO Detective Sergeant Christopher Guy at 800-533-7443, or Neptune City Detective James VanEtten at 732-455-0117.

A confidential tip line through Monmouth County Crime Stoppers can be reached at 800-671-4400.

"We can't just let it lie. We have to continue to find out if there's any additional information," Quagliato said.

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