The following is a press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office:
Police arrested a 20-year-old Ocean Township man Saturday for the murder of 29-year- old Trupal Patel, of Brick, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
Joseph C. Villani, of Ocean Township, was charged with first degree Murder, first degree Felony Murder, first degree Robbery, second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose and second degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.
Villani was lodged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold Township, where he made his First Appearance Saturday afternoon. Villani will be held pending a detention hearing on Thursday, March 2, 2017 before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman, P.J.Cr.
The charges are a result of a joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Wall Township, Absury Park and Ocean Township police departments after Patel was found dead in Shark River Park on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. The body was discovered along the side of Gully Road and down a slight slope by a Monmouth County Park Ranger who was collecting litter in the area. The Park Ranger reported the discovery at approximately 8:37 a.m., when officers from the Wall Township Police Department were dispatched to the area and confirmed the presence of a deceased male.
The joint investigation into the death was initially launched but within a short period of time, the deceased man was identified as Patel and it was discovered he had been reported missing to the Asbury Park Police Department by a friend on February 9, 2017. A vehicle he had been driving prior to his disappearance was discovered abandoned on an Asbury Park street on that same day. That information prompted the Asbury Park Police Department to join the murder investigation. Also, in the early stages of the investigation, the Ocean Township Police Department joined the investigation after ties to the township were discovered. Ultimately, detectives involved in the investigation determined that the incident had occurred in an Ocean Township residence.
Despite this arrest, the investigation into the disappearance and murder of Trupal Patel remains ongoing at this time. Anyone with information should contact Detective Pamela Smith of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at 800-533-7443, Detective Michael Steitz of the Wall Township Police Department at 732-449-4500 or Detective Steven Walker of the Ocean Township Police Department at 732-531-1800.
Anyone with additional information about the disappearance and murder of Trupal Patel, but who wishes to remain anonymous can also contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers. All information will remain anonymous. Those wishing to provide information in this manner can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400 or text "MONMOUTH" and your tip to 274637 (CRIMES).
Prosecutor Gramiccioni credited the combined efforts of the Prosecutor's Office and the Wall, Ocean and Asbury Park Police Departments for their efforts over the course of the last several days.
If convicted of first degree Murder or first degree Felony Murder, Villani faces a maximum of life in prison with a minimum term of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison. Both crimes are subject to the provisions of the No Early Release Act (NERA), which requires that defendant serve 85 percent of any sentence above the 30 year minimum term.
If convicted of first degree Robbery, Villani faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, subject to NERA.
If convicted of either second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose or Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Villani faces a maximum of 10 years in state prison with a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of any sentence imposed or 42 months, whichever is greater.
The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, Director of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office's Major Crimes Bureau.