Prosecutor: Authorities Seek Public Input in 1996 Cold Case Murder Investigation

A 1996 cold case murder investigation has been reopened. Authorities are seeking anyone with information regarding who may have been responsible for the 1996 murder of a Neptune City business owner, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago urged Thursday.

The case background …

Shortly before 10 a.m. on Friday, March 22, 1996, 35-year-old Tinton Falls resident Smita Amin Patel was murdered inside her place of business, the Little Brown Jug. This business is a convenience/grocery store located at 2040 Highway 33, Neptune City in the Gables shopping center, diagonally across the street from Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

“This was an unspeakable tragedy that claimed the life of a Neptune City business owner, and it is imperative that we remind Mrs. Patel’s loved ones that she has not been forgotten,” Neptune City Police Chief Matthew J. Quagliato stated. “Just because a case is considered cold does not mean that we consider it hopeless. Every victim deserves justice.”

The investigation revealed that the victim and her husband were co-owners of the convenience store. Patel was working alone in the store when she was attacked somewhere between 9:50 and 10 a.m. After the victim was discovered by a customer, and an investigation was launched.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Neptune City Police Department are urging anyone who was in the Gables shopping center on the date and time in question who may have seen anything that could be relevant to this investigation to please come forward.

“We are calling upon the citizens of our community to help provide justice for a grieving husband who lost his wife and business partner, along with family and friends who lost a loved one, with no closure or answers for 28 years now,” Prosecutor Santiago urged. “Detectives from my office, along with the Neptune City Police Department, refuse to allow this case to remain unsolved. It is our sincere hope that their efforts motivate anyone with information regarding who may be responsible for this senseless death to come forward with any details they may have.”

Anyone with information regarding this matter is urged to contact the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Sergeant Christopher Guy at 800-533-7443 or Neptune City Detective James VanEtten at 732-455-0117.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about a crime can submit a tip to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by: calling their confidential telephone tip-line at 1-800-671-4400; downloading and using the free P3 Tips mobile app (available on iOS and Android —; calling 800-671-4400; or by going to the website at

— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office