(KRON) — A doctor charged with attempting to murder his entire family by driving over a cliff along Highway 1 appeared in a San Mateo County courtroom on Wednesday.
Dharmesh Patel, 41, of Pasadena, could face a possible life prison sentence if his case moves forward to a trial and he is found guilty. His defense attorney is fighting to divert the case out of the criminal courts system and into a mental health diversion program. If the case is diverted, Patel could be freed from jail with a clean slate.
Defense attorney Joshua Bentley said his client qualifies for mental health diversion because Patel was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder when he crashed his Tesla on January 2, 2023. The Tesla drove through Lantos Tunnel, turned off Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide, plunged 250 feet over a cliff, and landed on a rocky beach below.
California Highway Patrol officers said when they reached the mangled Tesla, Patel’s severely injured wife was screaming that her husband intentionally drove off the cliff. His 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were miraculously uninjured.
Patel is charged with three counts of attempted murder and domestic violence. Victims are named in court documents as 7-year-old “Jane Doe,” 4-year-old “John Doe,” and Patel’s wife, Neha Bubna.
“He’s depressed. He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He purposely drove off,” Bubna told a CHP officer while she was being airlifted to a hospital, according to court documents.
Patel worked as a radiologist at an upscale medical center in Los Angeles. He had traveled to the Bay Area with his wife and children for the holidays, prosecutors said.
“The evidence supports the fact that he intentionally drove his vehicle over that cliff,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe previously told reporters. “By some miracle … all of them have survived.”
The doctor will return to court on December 13 to schedule a hearing in Mental Health Diversion Court. At the hearing, a judge will making a ruling deciding if Patel qualifies for diversion.
“If the court ultimately rules the defendant is suitable for mental health diversion and grants diversion, criminal proceedings are suspended and there is no trial or conviction,” the DA’s Office wrote.
Patel remains in a Redwood City jail with no bail.