Local News

Suspect in Estranged Wife's Death Denied Bond

Posted February 12, 2008

— A Cary man charged in the death of his estranged wife was denied bond on Tuesday, nearly a month after her charred body was found along a highway in Virginia.

Harish Purushottamdas Patel, 60, of 1128 Woodway Bluff Circle, was also appointed an attorney to represent him on the one count of murder he faces in the death of Vanlata Patel, 57.

Her son, Ashesh Patel, reported her missing in January after she failed to board a plane to visit him in Toronto.

Mecklenburg County, Va., firefighters found her body days earlier on Jan. 16 wrapped in a comforter at the center of a brush fire about 20 feet off an embankment along Interstate 85.

Police arrested Patel after a nearly month-long investigation that included searches of his car and the couple's apartment. Among the items they were looking for, according to Harish Patel, were a comforter and a passport.

Police have released little information about the case, including a possible motive.

James Petrie, a private investigator hired by Ashesh Patel, however, said his suspicions immediately turned toward Harish Patel.

"She had left that morning (her body was found in Virginia) to go where Harish Patel was and to pick up some of her belongings. She had gone missing from that point on."

The Patels had been married since 1996 and had adult children from previous marriages. She filed for divorce in November, and court records indicate the two had a dispute with over how their financial assets, including more than $400,000 in Swiss bank accounts, should be divided.

Vatlana Patel claimed $100,000 of it was a gift from her parents that she was keeping in for her son.

"I think anyone who looked at even minor details of the case from a distance would look at the husband because of the history," Petrie said.

Harish Patel said in an interview a few days after Vanlata Patel was reported missing that he loved his wife and wanted her to be happy.

"I did not want to lose my wife," he told WRAL in an interview on Jan. 21. "I just loved her, and she was the only one."

In a second interview on Jan. 22, Patel said he did not know anything about his wife's disappearance but said he and his wife were going through a divorce.

"I tried to contact her, see her," he said. "And she immediately called her lawyer. They said if I did not leave from there, they would call the cops, so I left."

"I did not want any trouble or anything like that, so I said, 'I'm going to stay away from you," Harish Patel added.

Petrie said he hopes the arrest will bring the family some peace.

"I'm sure everyone would have wished for a better outcome," Petrie said. "But at least now, they know what happened, where it happened, and I guess now that there's been an arrest, they will finally get the rest of the story."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • uncw05 Feb 13, 2008

    OSX : there is a different kind of lack of compassion between what you are talking about and killing. What your ex did may have been bad, but at least you are still alive to put the pieces back together, this woman is not.

  • cranky Feb 13, 2008


  • izzybizzy Feb 13, 2008

    I felf all along he was involved.. poor, family!

  • Adelinthe Feb 13, 2008

    Praying for her children.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • dko Feb 13, 2008

    If he has that much money why did the court appoint a lawyer?

  • OSX Feb 12, 2008

    One comment said having compassion for the woman that you once loved. It isn't like my ex had any compassion for me. She left me in a financial mess that took two years to straighten out. I am good now. I could care less if good things come her way or not. Lives/Dies, Rich/Poor, or Happy/Sad, Healthy/Sick... I don't care. She is none of my business anymore. That is the way divorce needs to be. Thankfully no kids involved in my case. Women are not the only ones hurt in a divorce.

  • VT1994Hokie Feb 12, 2008

    The story sounds to me like greed was the main goal. $400.000. He like many before him, and he will not be the last. These people think that they can get away with stuff like this. I am glad the Law Enforcement people did their job.

    It is another sad story. Am glad that he got caught.

  • grenlyn1 Feb 12, 2008

    "I did not want to lose my wife," he told WRAL in an interview on Jan. 21. "I just loved her, and she was the only one."

    If this statement alone doesn't scream out and say to you all..."I would rather see her dead than lose her" then nothing will. He showed up and she called her lawyer..they had to threaten to call the police to get rid of him. Hummm..again, I must say, he was not going to let go of her. Classic signs of a contolling man who will not give up as easily as he is willing to admit. It will all come out in court.

  • Heatherbrook Feb 12, 2008

    $400,0000 in one bank account and taxpayers pay his lawyer. Isn't a Public Defender paid by taxpayers? What a bummer!!!!

  • anti-Hans Feb 12, 2008

    I can't beleive all of you have missed this. The body was found burned while the firefighters were putting out a brush fire. She was wrapped in a comforter because she was taking a nap. The brush fire started and unfortunately consumed her. He did not do it. It was an accident.