A Brick, New Jersey couple, who are charged with murdering Indian American Trupal Patel, were ordered to remain in jail Dec. 11 without bail at a pre-trial hearing in which more charges were added to their list of crimes.
Raquel Garajau, 20, and Joseph Villani, 21, are accused in the murder of Trupal Patel, 29, whose body was found Feb. 22 in Shark River Park in Wall Township, New Jersey. Prosecutors allege that Villani killed Patel – who is alleged to be a drug dealer – at Villani’s home on Feb. 6. Patel was reported missing by his family on Feb. 9.
Patel’s 2003 Jaguar was found outside Villani’s home. Villani was wearing Patel’s watch when he was arrested, and confessed to police: "OK, I did it, I did it. Raquel had nothing to do with it. I told her I done it, but she had nothing to do with it. I want her out. Look, I told you guys what I did.”
Villani and Garajau are currently facing trial for 13 counts of first degree felony murder, robbery, and possession of an unlawful weapon, among other charges. They had been dealing cocaine, marijuana, and Ecstasy for months before Patel’s dead body was found.
Nine months before Patel’s murder, he was arrested for possessing large amounts of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms. Police also found $61,000 cash at his home (see earlier India-West story here).
Hours after Viullani shot Patel, the pair went shopping for a “promise ring,” claimed prosecutors in court, as reported by local media. Villani also allegedly bought a PlayStation 4 and deposited money into his bank account. It was unclear how much money the couple had stolen from Patel, but they also managed to steal some marijuana which they immediately sold.
The next morning, Garajau sent a text message to boyfriend Joseph Villani telling him she got "butterflies" every time she looked at her "amazing ring," Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Melanie Falco told Superior Court Judge Thomas Scully at the Dec. 11 hearing.
Garajau’s attorney has characterized the young woman as an “honor student” with good grades, and asked that she be released to her family with a monitor to track her movements. Scully denied the request when Falco presented evidence that Garajau did not have a good relationship with family members.
Villani’s attorney has said his client acted in self-defense.
Patel was born in Nadiad, India, and raised in New Jersey. He was killed four days before his 29th birthday.