Fear of 'sex trafficking' prompted Indian-origin doctor to drive family off the cliff, defense lawyer

An analysis and report by a psychologist noted that the 42-year-old accused was experiencing a mental illness and had reached a peak before the incident.
Dharmesh Patel with his wife Neha.
Dharmesh Patel with his wife Neha. Photo | Facebook

A year-old case of an Indian-American radiologist intentionally driving his Tesla with his wife and children off a cliff in California has taken a twist following revelations by doctors who treated the radiologist after the incident.

Radiologist Dr Dharmesh Patel was allegedly suffering from a depressive episode and had a major breakdown leading to the episode, according to psychologists who treated him after the incident.

A report by one of the psychologists noted that the 42-year-old was experiencing a mental illness, which reached a peak before the incident.

The incident reportedly occurred on January 2, 2023, when Patel along with his 41-year-old wife Neha and their children-- a seven-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy-- were in the vehicle.

Patel who was driving the vehicle on the Pacific Coast Highway allegedly veered the car off the road.

While Patel sustained injuries on his leg, his wife and two children suffered major injuries on their head. They were rushed to a local hospital following the accident. All four survived the ordeal.

Patel was later arrested at shortly on suspicion of attempted murder.

During the initial investigations, it was found that Patel had a mental breakdown and thought that his two children were being trafficked for sex, leading him to drive off the cliff, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Patel had told the police that he was suffering from depression and also revealed during his consultations with doctors that he heard footsteps coming from behind him right before he drove his car off the cliff.

Mark Patterson, one of the psychologists called by Patel's attorney, told the court that Patel was "paranoid and kind of delusional and acted thinking he was protecting his family from a worse fate", according to Mail Online.

"He was concerned that his two children were at the risk of being kidnapped, possibly for sexual molestation. There were concerns surrounding the explosion of fentanyl and the Ukraine war at that time," Patterson said.

Patel is pleading not guilty to three counts of attempted murder and is seeking a mental health diversion in the case. This would permit his release from the jail and put him under a two-year treatment plan.

Meanhile, the 42-year-old's medical practical license has been suspended.

The medical board termed Dr Patel as "an alarming danger to the public" and said that an "impairment of cognitive abilities" was the reason behind his suspension from the practice.

If proven not guilty, Patel will be allowed to undergo a treatment for his mental illness. If he doesn't commit any other crime or break any rules imposed following his arrest, the charges against would be dropped, The Los Angeles Times reported.

However, prosecutors believe that the case would remain in court and the charges would not be dropped as they believe that Patel is not suffering from any major mental illness.

Patel was only suffering from a depressive disorder called 'schzioaffective; and not from any major psychotic feature.

The case will return to court on May 2 and where his wife will also testifying and share her side of the story.

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The New Indian Express