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Couple charged with murder of Indian American man found dead in NJ Park

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Trupal Patel was found dead on February 22

Trupal Patel (Courtesy of twitter)

A couple from New Jersey has been charged with a 13-count indictment for the murder and robbery of Indian American Trupal Patel, whose body was found in a park on February 22.

Joseph Villani, of Ocean Township, and his girlfriend Raquel Garajau, of Tinton Falls, were charged on Monday, reportedAsbury Park Press.

The 21-year-old Villani was arrested on February 25, after Garajau, Villani’s best friend and an acquaintance, gave statements that proved his involvement in the murder.

Garajau, who appeared in court for the first time on May 16, earlier told authorities that her boyfriend confessed to killing 29-year-old Patel in his garage. She also pointed out blood on the floor, the report read.

Related Story: Man faces murder charges after Indian American’s body found in NJ Park

Prosecutor Christopher J. Grammicioni announced the indictment on Monday. He asserted that the murder investigation uncovered evidence that Garajau conspired with her boyfriend to kill and rob Patel. Furthermore, she helped him to destroy and conceal evidence of the crimes, he added.

Garajau’s attorney pleaded not guilty on her and said that Monday’s indictment comes as a shock to herself and her family.

“My client is a 20-year-old dean’s list college student,” Asbury Park Press quoted her attorney, Robert A. Honecker. “I want to make it clear that she did not agree or plan to commit a murder, she did not participate in any murder, and she did not take part in any cover-up.”

Since his arrest, Villani has been held without bail.

The indictment charges both Villani and Garajau with first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, second-degree distributing or desecrating human remains, second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree unlawful possession of an assault rifle, third-degree hindering apprehension of oneself, third-degree hindering apprehension of another, third-degree tampering with a witness, and there counts of fourth-degree tampering with evidence, the report quoted Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.

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The 29-year-old Patel, of Brick, was reported missing by a friend on February 9 and his car was found abandoned in Asbury Park. A few days later, on February 22, his body was found in a New Jersey park by a ranger who was collecting litter.

According to the reports, Patel used to sell marijuana to Villani and had a criminal record for dealing marijuana. He had marijuana distribution charges pending at the time of his death.

Villani would face life in prison without the possibility of release on parole if convicted of first-degree murder or felony murder. Garajau would face 30 years to life in prison, Grammicioni told the USA Today associate.

If convicted of first-degree robbery, the couple would face 10 to 20 years in prison and would also face five to 10 years in prison if convicted of disturbing or desecrating human remains charge could impose a maximum of 10 years.

The third-degree charges each carry maximum prison terms of five years, and the fourth-degree charges carry maximum terms of 18 months, the report said.