FREEHOLD – A female college student charged with the murder of Trupal Patel has been found guilty on all counts.
Tinton Falls resident Raquel Garajau, 20, was found guilty on all counts: 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 (Villani) and tampering with a witness. The charges stemmed from the February 2017 murder of Patel, 29, of Brick.
Garajau is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 29 by Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley. She faces 30 years to life, and must serve at least 85 percent of that before she is eligible for parole.
Patel was reported missing Feb. 9, 2018 to the Asbury Park Police Department. A black 2003 Jaguar that Patel was driving prior to his disappearance was discovered abandoned on an Asbury Park street on that same day.
His body was found Feb. 22 in the Shark River by a Monmouth County Park Ranger who was collecting litter in the area discovered the body along the side of Gully Road and down a slight slope.
Multiple agencies investigated, with evidence pointing to Garajau and her boyfriend, Joseph Villani of Ocean Township. He was arrested Feb. 25, 2017 and is still awaiting trial.
Patel was killed at Villani’s residence Feb. 6, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said. “Additional investigation conducted by detectives revealed 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,” a MCPO statement said.
Garajau’s trial ran nearly two months and included 35 witnesses. Texts messages exchanged between her and Villani 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.”
Trial evidence also revealed that while Villani was dumping Patel’s body, Garajau told him to “Facetime me please when you are done” and “I love you.”
Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Melanie Falco and Stephanie Dugan are prosecuting the case.
Garajau is represented by Robert Honeker, Esq. and Tara Walsh, Esq., of Ocean Township.