Local News

Patel found guilty in wife's death

Posted December 18, 2009 4:10 p.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2009 6:39 a.m. EST

— A Wake County jury on Friday found Harish Patel, of Cary, guilty of killing his estranged wife and setting her body on fire last year. He faces a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The body of Vanlata Patel, 57, was found in a brush fire along Interstate 85 in Mecklenburg County, Va., on Jan. 16, 2008. Her husband was arrested days later and charged with first-degree murder.

Prosecutors argued that Harish Patel suffocated his wife in his apartment because they were going through a contentious divorce. They fought over money, and he was suspicious that she was involved romantically with a mutual friend, witnesses said.

"My sister will never come back, but I think she's at peace," Mina Patel said. "I just miss her dearly."

Defense attorneys argued that authorities quickly focused on their client, and that investigators avoided evidence that might have led them in another direction.

Harish Patel immediately declared his intention to appeal the conviction and thanked his lawyers and supporters.