NJ college girl goes to prison: Instructed beau in murder cover-up
A Brookdale Community College student will trade her Tinton Falls condo for a prison cell for the next 30 years after a Monmouth County jury found her guilty of conspiring with her boyfriend to kill off a rival marijuana dealer in 2017.
Raquel Garajau, 21, was convicted in September for her role in the Feb. 6, 2017, killing of 29-year-old Brick resident Trupal Patel. A judge on Friday sentenced her to 33 years in prison, remarking on her lack of remorse.
Garajau's boyfriend, Joseph Villani, admitted shooting Patel in Villani's Ocean Township home and then dumping his body in a park in Shark River Park in Wall.
Villani, 22, pleaded guilty this month to aggravated manslaughter, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, disturbing human remains and witness tampering. He faces up to 40 years when he is sentenced March 21.
A friend of Villani who helped dispose of Patel's body was granted immunity for testifying in Garajau's case. Another friend who helped Villani move Patel's car to Asbury Park called authorities when he saw the car on the news.
Garajau, an honors student, has maintained her innocence but prosecutors provided text messages that they said show she aided Villani in covering up the crime after plotting to rob and kill Patel.
“You need to clean the bullets,” she texted Villani. “Take your time bleaching everything. The whole entire door and inside.”
“Take that bag of stuff out cause I touched his phone," another text said. "We will throw that stuff in the ocean.”
“Babe you need to move that car it’s too important. Like ASAP. People will start noticing he’s not answering," another text said.
While Patel's body was being dumped, prosecutors said Garajau texted Villani to ask him “Facetime me please when you are done,” adding: “I love you.”
Patel was reported missing to Asbury Park police on Feb. 8, 2017. His black 2003 Jaguar was found on a city street that day.
Patel's body was discovered weeks later by a Monmouth County park ranger on Feb. 22.
Garajau was found guilty of first-degree felony murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit theft of marijuana, theft of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft of cash, theft of cash, weapons offenses, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, tampering with evidence, hindering apprehension of herself and of Villani, and tampering with a witness.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.