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Court record: Wife says CA doctor purposely drove family off cliff

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Posted at 4:46 PM, May 17, 2023

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — The wife of a California radiologist accused of trying to kill his family when he drove his Tesla off a cliff along the Northern California coast told rescuers her husband was depressed and needed a psychological evaluation, according to a newly unsealed search warrant affidavit.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday that Neha Patel repeatedly told rescuers that Dharmesh Patel intentionally drove off a San Mateo County cliff on Jan. 2 in a bid to kill her and their two children, ages 4 and 7. All four survived in what one official called an “absolute miracle.”

Dharmesh Patel, a Pasadena radiologist, said he pulled off the road to check on a possible flat tire, according to the warrant. Witness testimony does not appear to back up his account.

“He drove off. He’s depressed,” Neha Patel told a California Highway Patrol officer as she was flown away from the crash site, according to the Chronicle. “He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He purposely drove off.”

Dharmesh Patel, 41, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. He is in custody without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 12, at which time a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to move ahead with a trial.

Patel was driving his white 2021 Tesla Model Y along the Pacific Coast Highway south of San Francisco when the car plunged several hundred feet off the cliff at Devil’s Slide. Firefighters had to cut the family out of the wreckage.

The warrant affidavit includes an interview with Patel while he was recovering from major lower-body injuries. In the interview, he said his wife was irritated shortly before the plunge off the cliff because she didn’t want to stop at his brother’s house in San Mateo County before making their drive home to the Los Angeles area, the Chronicle reported.

He said he was not really depressed but that he felt down because times were bad in the world, according to the affidavit.

“Asked if he felt suicidal, he said, ‘You know, not like a plan, not usually,’” the affidavit said.