Suspect in Estranged Wife's Death Denied Bond
Posted February 12, 2008 6:05 a.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2008 5:28 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."