Monmouth County woman found guilty for murder of Brick man
A Monmouth County jury has returned a guilty verdict against a Tinton Falls woman charged in connection with the murder of 29-year oldTrupal Patel of Brick who was found dead in Shark River Park in February of 2017, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office.
Raquel Garajau, 20, of Frontier Way in Tinton Falls, was found guilty on all counts including to first degree Felony Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery, Armed Robbery, Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Marijuana, Theft of Marijuana, Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Cash, Theft of Cash, Conspiracy to Possess a Weapon For an Unlawful Purpose, Possession of a Weapon For an Unlawful Purpose, Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Hindering the Apprehension of Oneself, Hindering the Apprehension of Another (her boyfriend 20-year old Joseph Villani) and Tampering with a Witness, pertaining to the February 2017 murder.
Her trial lasted for almost 2 months, beginning on July 17 and had 35 total witnesses, including lay people, law enforcement officials and six experts.
During the trial extensive evidence was shared from a discovery made on the cell phones of both Garajau and Joseph Villani that included numerous text messages they exchanged, including messages from Garajau to Villani that stated "You need to clean the bullets," "Take your time bleaching everything. The whole entire door and inside," "Take that bag of stuff out cause I touched his phone.. We will throw that stuff in the ocean," and "Babe you need to move that car it's too important. Like ASAP. People will start noticing he's not answering."
The evidence at the trial also revealed that while Villani was dumping Patel's body, Garajau told him to "Facetime me please when you are done" and told him "I love you."
A Monmouth County Park Ranger who was collecting litter in the area discovered the body of Patel along the side of Gully Road and down a slight slope.
The Ranger reported the discovery around 8:37 a.m. when Wall Police Officers were dispatched and confirmed the presence of a deceased male.
A short time later the deceased man was identified as Patel and that he had been reported missing to the Asbury Park Police Department by a friend on February 9, 2017.
A black 2003 Jaguar that Patel was driving prior to his disappearance was discovered abandoned on an Asbury Park street on that same day.
Detectives discovered that the incident occurred at Villani's Ocean Township residence on February 6, 2017.
He was arrested for murder on February 25, 2017.
Detectives found additional evidence that Garajau conspired with Villani to commit these crimes and aided him in destroying and concealing evidence in connection with the murder and robbery of Patel.
Villani is currently being detained at the Middlesex County Jail awaiting trial.
Raquel Garajau is scheduled to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley on November 29, 2018.
She faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the "No Early Release Act" (NERA) requiring her to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole.
Garajau would also be under parole supervision for five years following her release from state prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Melanie Falco and Stephanie Dugan.
Garajau is represented by Robert Honeker, Esq. and Tara Walsh, Esq., of Ocean Township.
The charges were a result of a joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Ocean Township, Wall Township, and Asbury Park police departments after Patel was found dead in Shark River Park on Feb. 22, 2017.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.
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