‘Somebody saw something.’ Neptune City police seek public’s help solving 1996 slaying

Smitha Amin Patel was stabbed to death inside her grocery store on March 22, 1996.

Jim Murdoch

Mar 28, 2024, 5:19 PM

Updated 108 days ago


Imagine the pain of knowing that whoever killed your loved one nearly 30 years ago continues to walk free. For a family in Neptune City, living the American Dream turned into a nightmare.
At 10 a.m. on Friday, March 22, 1996, Smita Amin Patel worked the counter at the family-owned Little Brown Jug grocery store on Route 33 in Neptune City while her husband Jay and 4-year-old son vacationed in their native India.
“It’s 28 years of unanswered questions - 28 years of asking why this happened. We want to give those answers to that family,” said Monmouth County prosecutor Raymond Santiago.
Smita was found by a customer brutally stabbed to death. Police said a robbery took place. The person who did it got away.
“We believe that there is somebody who is a witness, who saw something, who can come forward and assist us,” Santiago said. “This is a Friday morning at 10 a.m. on Route 33, there were people coming and going, going about their daily business. Somebody saw something.”
Smita’s husband Jay refused to quit following her murder and still runs this store today. He did not want to speak on camera but told News 12 about how grateful he is that the police are taking another look into his wife’s killing.
“They were doing all great things, they came from India, opened their own business, doing very well. They seemed like they were happy,” said Neptune City Police Chief Matthew Quagliato.
Anyone with information about the killing is urged to contact the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Sgt. 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; by downloading and using the free P3 Tips mobile app (available on iOS and Android - https://www.p3tips.com/1182); by calling 800-671-4400; or by going to the website.

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