Brick, New Jersey May 18: A New Jersey couple has been charged with robbing and killing an Indian American man from Brick, New Jersey, and leaving his body in a park this past February.
Joseph Villani, of Ocean Township, and his girlfriend, Raquel Garajau, of Tinton Falls, were charged in a 13-count indictment May 15 of slaying 29-year-old Trupal Patel, according to an Asbury Park Press report citing Monmouth County prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.
The 21-year-old Villani was arrested in late February after Garajau, Villani’s best friend and an acquaintance, reported interactions with Villani in the moments before and after Patel’s death to police, the report said. Garajau, 20, appeared in court for the first time May 16.
The couple are charged with first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains, second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree unlawful possession of an assault rifle, three counts of fourth-degree tampering with evidence, third-degree hindering apprehension of oneself, third-degree hindering apprehension of another and third-degree tampering with a witness, according to the report.
Garajau’s attorney pleaded not guilty on her behalf at the May 16 hearing.
The judge ordered Garajau, a community college student, to be held without bail until a detention hearing scheduled for May 26, the report said.
Nine months before his death, Patel was arrested in concert with two others for possession of over four pounds of marijuana and an ounce of psilocybin mushrooms, an illegal hallucinogenic drug. Police also found $61,000 in cash.
Two months ago, when only Villani had been arrested in the case, Christopher Decker, a Monmouth County assistant prosecutor, said in court that Villani had voiced his plans to rob Patel numerous times, the New Jersey publication said.
Decker said Villani asked his best friend how Patel usually operated, how much money and marijuana he usually carried and what kind of car he drove, it added.
Patel, of Brick, was reported missing by a friend on Feb. 9 to the Asbury Park Police Department, the report said. That same day, Patel’s car, a black 2003 Jaguar, was found abandoned on a city street, it added.
Patel was found dead Feb. 22, wrapped in a blue blanket, by a Shark River Park county park ranger, the report added.
Detectives later surmised that the Indian American was killed at Villani’s home, according to the report. Villani was arrested days later and has remained jail without bail.
If guilty of first-degree murder or felony murder, Villani faces life in prison without parole. Garajau could get life in prison or a minimum term of 30 years.
A first-degree robbery conviction would carry a maximum term of 20 years, according to the report. The second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains charge could impose a maximum of 10 years, it added.
The third-degree charges each have a maximum of five years and the fourth-degree charges have a maximum of 18 months, the publication said.
(This story has not been edited by BDC staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed from IANS.)