(KRON) — The man accused of driving his family over a cliff at Devils Slide in January will be present in court on Thursday, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe. Dharmesh Patel could spend life in prison if found guilty of his accused crimes.
Patel, a medical doctor from Pasadena, is charged with three counts of attempted murder, as well as domestic violence. His wife and two small children, listed in court documents as Jane an John Doe, were all in the Tesla when he allegedly drove it off the road and over a cliff.
Patel’s hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m., and Wagstaffe anticipates it will last about five minutes. The case is before Judge Amarra A. Lee, and the aim is to set a date for Patel’s preliminary hearing.
The January crash was initially reported as an accident. However, emergency crews said when they got to Patel’s wife, she was screaming, and that’s when she accused him of driving them off the cliff on purpose.
Footage from traffic cameras reportedly showed the Tesla traveling at a high rate of speed before careening over the edge of the cliff. The car tumbled more than 250 feet down to the water’s edge. It came to a stop in between several large boulders.
“By some miracle that I don’t understand, all of them have survived,” Wagsteffe said of the crash.
The Tesla was mangled, and the family had to be cut out of the vehicle. All four family members suffered injuries and were taken to local hospitals. The children were released first, but as of late January their mother was still in the hospital.
Court records so far
Patel was arrested at Stanford Health Care while he was still being treated for injuries from the crash. After he was released, he was booked into the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City.
In February, Patel pleaded not guilty in court. Later that month, Patel’s attorney motioned for him to receive a bail reduction or release. His motion was denied. The same day, a confidential criminal protective “no contact” order was filed against Patel. The names of the person or people he is asked to stay away from were not listed.
Search warrants were issued for the case in early March. Court documents show a motion filed for the search warrant to be unsealed; that motion was granted.
The court subpoenaed records from Stanford Health Care, the North County Fire Authority and CalFire Prevention Bureau, according to court documents. All three organizations have returned the subpoenaed documents.
Wagstaffe confirmed that authorities were investigating whether there might have been a mechanical malfunction on the Tesla. However, the statements Patel’s wife made on scene lead investigators to believe he crashed the car intentionally.
Wagstaffe confirmed that Patel’s wife spoke to law enforcement after the crash, “She said, very simply, this was not an accident,” he said. However, during Patel’s last appearance in court, his attorney alleged that Patel’s wife did not want him to be prosecuted.
Authorities say it is not uncommon for victims to want to avoid prosecution in domestic violence cases. Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said, “Regardless of whether she is cooperative, we believe we have sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”