OCEAN TOWNSHIP (Monmouth) — A 22-year-old township man is following his girlfriend to prison with a 40-year maximum sentence for shooting and killing a rival drug dealer in a robbery and cover-up planned by the couple.

Joseph C. Villani pleaded guilty in January to aggravated manslaughter, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, disturbing human remains and witness tampering, for the 2017 killing of 29-year-old Trupal Patel, of Brick. His girlfriend, Raquel Garajau, 21, was found guilty by a jury.

Villani admitted to shooting Patel three times in the garage at the Villani family's Ocean Township home with a rifle he had hidden before their meeting. Villani also confessed to dumping the body in Shark River Park in Wall, according to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.

Garajau was sentenced to 33 years in prison in January for her role in Patel's killing and elaborate coverup. While Villani did the killing and body dumping on his own, a Monmouth County jury in September found Garajau guilty on all counts, including first-degree felony murder.

Prosecutors referenced text messages between Villani and Garajau, in which they talked about moving Patel's car, bleaching bullets and tossing other evidence into the ocean.

The couple also stole an amount of marijuana from Patel and then sold it, which were part of the charges for which Garajau was convicted.

Patel had been reported missing to Asbury Park Police by a friend on February 9, 2017. His black 2003 Jaguar was discovered on an Asbury Park street that same day.

Patel's body was found about two weeks later by a Monmouth County Park Ranger who was collecting litter in Shark River Park.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Villani must serve 85 percent of his sentence before any possible release on parole through the No Early Release Act.

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