FREEHOLD – Joseph Villani, 22, of Ocean Township was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in connection with the 2017 killing of Trupal Patel, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Freehold Superior Court Judge, the Honorable Joseph W. Oxley J.S.C., sentenced Villani. The sentence carries a minimum of 25.5 years before he is eligible for release. Once released, Villani will be under parole supervision for five years.

Joseph Villani, 22, of Ocean Township, pleaded guilty on Friday, January 4, to first degree Aggravated Manslaughter, second degree Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery, first degree Armed Robbery, second degree Disturbing of Human Remains and third degree Witness Tampering before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley.

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 February 22, 2017. A Monmouth County Park Ranger, who was collecting litter in the area, discovered the body of the 29-year Brick Township man old along the side of Gully Road and down a slight slope. The Park Ranger reported the discovery at approximately 8:37 a.m., when officers from the Wall Township Police Department were dispatched to the area and confirmed the presence of a deceased male.

Within a short period of time, the deceased man was identified as Patel and it was discovered 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. 

Ultimately, detectives involved in the investigation determined the homicide had occurred at Joseph Villani’s Ocean Township residence in the afternoon of February 6, 2017. Villani was arrested for the homicide on February 25, 2017.  Additional investigation conducted by detectives revealed evidence that Villani conspired with his girlfriend, Raquel Garajau, to commit these crimes and that she aided him in destroying and concealing evidence in connection with the robbery and homicide  of Patel.

At his plea before Judge Oxley, Villani admitted that, while dating Garajau, the couple planned to rob Trupal Patel. Villani stated that Garajau assisted him with the planning of the robbery and knew that he would be armed with a .22 caliber Marlin long rifle. He admitted to shooting the victim three times during the robbery, which occurred within the garage of Villani’s Ocean Township home. Villani told the Court that after the killing, Garajau assisted him in hiding evidence and also shared in the proceeds of the robbery.

This past January,  Garajau, 21, of Tinton Falls, was sentenced to 33 years in prison for numerous charges including first degree Felony Murder, third degree Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, three counts of fourth degree Tampering with Physical Evidence, two counts of third degree Hindering Apprehension, and third degree Witness Tampering

During her sentencing, Judge Oxley highlighted Garajau’s lack of remorse for her role in the killing.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors Melanie Falco and Stephanie Dugan. 

Villani was represented by Edward R. Bertuccio, Esq., of Eatontown.

Garajau was represented at trial by Robert A. Honecker, Esq. and Tara Walsh, Esq. of Ocean Township.

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