Guilty plea entered in 2017 killing of Brick man

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Joseph Villani PHOTO COURTESY OF MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE

BRICK TOWNSHIP — An Ocean Township man pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to charges of aggravated manslaughter and armed robbery in connection with the 2017 killing of Trupal Patel, of Brick Township, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Joseph Villani, 22, pleaded guilty in Superior Court Friday, Jan. 4, to charges including first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter, second-degree Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery and first-degree Armed Robbery, according to a press release posted by the prosecutor’s office.

Mr. Patel was found dead in Shark River Park in Wall Township on Feb. 22, 2017. He had been reported missing on Feb. 9. The investigation determined he had been killed at Mr. Villani’s home in Ocean Township on Feb. 6 and Mr. Villani was arrested Feb. 25. According to the press release, additional investigation revealed evidence Mr. Villani had conspired with his girlfriend, Raquel Garajau, to commit the crime and destroy and conceal evidence.

At his plea hearing, Mr. Villani admitted the couple planned to rob Mr. Patel and stated Ms. Garajau assisted him with planning the robbery. Mr. Villani admitted to shooting Mr. Patel three times during the robbery and told the court after the killing, Ms. Garajau assisted him in hiding evidence and also shared in the proceeds of the robbery, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Mr. Villani faces a maximum term of 40 years in New Jersey State Prison. He is scheduled for sentencing March 21 and remains in custody. After a jury trial, Ms. Garajau, 20, of Tinton Falls, was found guilty of charges including first degree Felony Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Marijuana and Theft of Cash. She remains incarcerated at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution pending her sentencing on Jan. 18.

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