California Father Is Charged With Attempted Murder After Allegedly Driving His Family Off an Oceanside Cliff, Prosecutors Say

CNN Newsource
By CNN Newsource
January 31, 2023California
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California Father Is Charged With Attempted Murder After Allegedly Driving His Family Off an Oceanside Cliff, Prosecutors Say
The Tesla on a rocky beach below the cliffs in an area called Devil's Slide. (Courtesy of KGO)

A California father has been charged with three counts of attempted murder after he allegedly drove a car off an oceanside cliff with his wife and two children inside earlier this month, prosecutors said in court Monday.

Prosecutors accuse Dharmesh Patel, 41, of intentionally steering his Tesla off a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway called Devil’s Slide, sending the family plunging about 250 feet to a rocky beach below. All four family members survived the crash.

Two of the three counts against Patel come with domestic violence and great bodily injury enhancements, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said during a news conference Monday.

Patel’s wife is still hospitalized after suffering “major injuries” and the couple’s 7-year-old child was also injured, Wagstaffe said, though the extent of the child’s injuries are unclear.

“Miraculously though, the four-year-old came out with just some bruises, and that does not qualify for significant bodily injury,” Wagstaffe said, explaining why the enhancements were left off the third charge.

Though the victims were not named in the charging documents, the California Highway Patrol previously said the passengers of the vehicle were the driver’s wife and two children.

Patel appeared in San Mateo County court Monday and did not enter a plea, which he is expected to give at his next court appearance on February 9.

Superior court judge Jeffrey Finigan ordered Patel be held without bail. Patel’s attorney Joshua Bentley said he plans to bring a motion on bail at a later date. Bentley declined to speak with CNN about the matter.

Investigators are still looking into Patel’s motive but feel there is enough evidence from surveillance cameras and eyewitness accounts to prove that his actions on January 2 were intentional, Wagstaffe said. The wife also gave an “incriminating” statement to first responders on the scene, he said, but did not share further details.

Investigators have not been able to speak with Patel’s wife because her attorney is declining interviews until she is “physically ready to do so,” Wagstaffe said.

Finigan denied prosecutors’ request for a no-contact order, instead granting them a no-harassment order which allows Patel to contact his wife and children, but it must be “peaceful and non-threatening,” the district attorney said.

There is no indication at this time that Patel’s Tesla malfunctioned at the time of the incident, but the state highway patrol is examining the car to determine if there were any issues, the district attorney said. Prosecutors expect that process to take several months, he added.

Patel has been hospitalized since the crash, Wagstaffe said, but prosecutors were informed Friday that he was being discharged and booked into jail.

While the family lives in Pasadena, it appears they were in the area visiting family at the time of the incident, he said.

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