An Indian-American who was accused of deliberately driving his Tesla off a California cliff with his wife and children inside on January 2, has been formally charged with three counts of murder.
Dharmesh A Patel, 41, of Pasadena, was transported to San Mateo County jail after his release last week from the hospital where he was treated for “serious lower body injuries”.
A San Mateo judge on Monday reportedly granted a request to hold Patel without bail at the Maguire Correctional Facility, citing the danger he poses to his family, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The three counts of murder he has been charged with include, “attempted first-degree murder and child abuse, as well as enhancements for great bodily injury and domestic abuse,” San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a press conference on Monday.
Statement from Patel’s wife as well as witness accounts from other motorists and video of the roadway gave enough evidence to frame charges against Patel, Wagstaffe said.
“We do believe the evidence establishes the necessary intent to kill,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Wagstaffe told The Chronicle that the wife’s attorney told prosecutors that she would talk to investigators only “when she was physically ready to do so”.
Patel’s wife continues to be in the hospital, according to the report.
Patel’s car was travelling south on State Route 1 when it went over the cliff at Devil’s Slide, south of the Tom Lantos Tunnels, and flipped and landed on its wheels near the water’s edge.
Firefighters were able to pull Patel’s two children — a seven-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy — from the vehicle. The daughter suffered a serious injury, while the boy escaped with just bruises.
The children have been staying with one of Patel’s sisters, Wagstaffe said.
Patel, a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Pasadena, and his wife were pulled out of the vehicle’s windows.
“We’re looking into what led up to this. Was there depression or anything else? It wasn’t just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too,” Wagstaffe said.
He had earlier said they are also investigating whether the crash could have been caused due to an issue with the car.
“Did the brakes fail? Were the brakes working? Were there any other mechanical malfunctions that would have led to him (Patel) not being able to stop the vehicle? “We’re having the car looked at from top to bottom,” Wagstaffe had said.
“Based on the evidence collected, investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.
The incident has left Patel’s neighbours in shock who described him as a “great guy”.