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Student convicted of murder in slaying of marijuana dealer

September 16, 2018

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — A community college honors student has been convicted of felony murder in the death of a convicted marijuana dealer found shot in a New Jersey park last year.

Raquel Garajau, 20, of Tinton Falls, broke into tears at last week’s verdict in the death of Trupal Patel, 29, whose body was found in February 2017 in Shark River Park in Wall Township, the Asbury Park Press reported.

Monmouth County prosecutors said the Brookdale Community College honors student and her boyfriend, Joseph Villani, plotted to kill Patel to steal and sell his marijuana stash. Villani, 22, who argues that he shot Patel in self-defense, is awaiting trial.

Defense attorney Robert Honecker said he was “very disappointed” and would likely discuss with the family filing an appeal.

The defense argued unsuccessfully that Garajau was a young woman in love who may have helped her boyfriend clean up the crime scene but didn’t help plan the robbery or murder.

Authorities said Villani told detectives that Garajau had nothing to do with Patel’s death, but prosecutors presented witnesses, recorded telephone conversations and numerous text messages suggesting her involvement in drug dealing, setting up the robbery and trying to cover up the crimes.

Among the text messages were some sent by Garajau to her boyfriend telling him to clean the bullets, bleach everything, move the dead man’s car from in front of his house and throw the victim’s belongings in the ocean. Prosecutors said that while Villani was dumping the body, Garajau was texting him, telling him to “Facetime me please when you are done,” and adding, “I love you.”

Garajau will be sentenced Nov. 29 on convictions including murder, conspiracy, theft, and evidence-tampering convictions.


Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com

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