California father charged with attempted murder after allegedly throwing his family off a cliff

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(CNN) — A California father has been charged with three counts of attempted murder after he allegedly drove a car off a seaside cliff with his wife and two children inside earlier this month, prosecutors told court Monday. .

Prosecutors accuse Dharmesh Patel, 41, of intentionally swerving his Tesla off the Pacific Coast Highway called Devil’s Slide, causing the entire family to fall 250 feet onto a rocky beach below. All four people in the car survived.

Two of the three charges against Patel include domestic violence and serious bodily injury, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said during a news conference Monday.

Patel’s wife is still hospitalized because she sustained “serious injuries,” while the couple’s 7-year-old son was also injured, Wagstaffe said, though the extent of the boy’s injuries is unclear.

“However, miraculously, the four-year-old boy came away with only a few bruises, and that does not qualify for significant bodily injury,” Wagstaffe said, explaining why that was not included in the third count.

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

Patel appeared in San Mateo County court on Monday and pleaded no guilty, which he is expected to do at his next court appearance on February 9.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Finigan ordered Patel held without bail. Patel’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, said he plans to file a motion for bail at a later date. Bentley declined to speak to CNN about the matter.

Investigators are still looking into Patel’s motives, but believe there is enough evidence from surveillance cameras and eyewitness accounts to show that his actions on Jan. 2 were intentional, Wagstaffe said. The wife also made an “incriminating” statement to first responders at the scene where the incident occurred, she said, but did not share further details.

Investigators have not been able to speak with Patel’s wife because her attorney is refusing 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 that allows Patel to contact his wife and children, but must be “peaceful and non-threatening,” the prosecutor said. of district.

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 was a problem, the district attorney said. Prosecutors expect that process to take several months, he added.

Patel has been hospitalized since the accident, Wagstaffe said, but prosecutors were informed Friday that he had been released and jailed.

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

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Brandon Griggs, Faith Karimi, Aya Elamroussi, Stella Chan and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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