Testimony reveals battles in Patel marriage

December 2, 2009 9:46:32 PM PST
Testimony in the Vanlata Patel murder case revealed the couple's estranged marriage was at times physical.According to testimony Wednesday, Harish Patel often fought with his wife, Vanlata Patel.

Vanlata's daughter-in-law told jurors those fights could be violent.

In one she said Patel choked Vanlata with his hands.

"She said to me, 'You know, Priya, when someone looks in your eye and you know that they love you just by looking in their eyes? That same way when he strangled me that day and did not let go of my neck,'" Priya Patel said. "She said she was sure she was going to die, in his eyes she could see he was going to kill her."

That's why when Vanlata's burned body was found along the side of I-85 just across the Virginia line in January of 2008, her family immediately pointed at Harish Patel.

Vanlata Patel had already filed for divorce and was trying to work out the details with her estranged husband.

But a bone of contention was money --some of which Vanlata brought into the marriage and some the two deposited together.

That includes $65,000 in certificates of deposit with a Caribbean bank called Millenium Bank that was ran by a Raleigh man.

The bank has been shut down by the Fed's who said the money was stolen as part of one of the largest bank Ponzi schemes in recent history. But neither Harish nor Vanlata Patel knew that at the time.

Vanlata's divorce attorney, who is now the attorney for Vanlata's estate, gave jurors one possible motive during testimony.

"It's my understanding that both her spouse, Harish Patel and her son, Ashesh Patel, would be potential heirs," Corrie Seagroves said.

Though Ashesh and Harish both have the same last name, Ashesh was Harish Patel's step-son.

Meanwhile, the trial may likely last for two to three weeks, because some witnesses testifying in the case need help from an Indian interpreter.

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