Photos show Patel buying gas can day of murder

Picture of Harish Patel buying a gas can and gas at a Cary convenience store

December 3, 2009 8:44:49 PM PST
On Thursday, jurors in the trial of a Cary man accused of murdering his estranged wife saw pictures of him buying a gas can the day of the crime.Investigators say Harish Patel killed his wife, drove just across the Virginia line and set her body on fire on the side of I-85.

Search warrants revealed that police had recovered surveillance video of Harish Patel buying the gas can and the gas to go in it. But those pictures were never seen publicly until Thursday.

The still pictures of Patel buying a gas can and gas at a Cary convenience store were pulled from a surveillance video during convenience store manager, Melissa Boykin's shift.

"He's at the cash register and he's asking me if we sell gas cans," Boykin said.

Boykin was also able to recover Patel's credit card receipt for the purchase he made at 10 a.m. on January 16, 2008.

A few hours later firefighters in Virginia were battling a blaze on the side of I-85 not far from the North Carolina line.

A forest fire expert told jurors that the blaze originated at the bottom of the embankment from a gasoline doused body that turned out to be Vanlata Patel.

"You do not get damage to a body to that extent unless some type of an accelerant was used," said Blair Dalton with the Virginia Forestry Service.

At the time of Vanlata Patel's death, she had filed for divorce from her husband.

The two were fighting, according to witnesses, especially over the hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts.

She was staying with some friends and scheduled to fly that day to Canada to be with her son and his wife, but she never made the flight.

The day before, her brother who lives in Mobile, Alabama said he spoke with her on the phone.

She told him she wanted to go to her estranged husband's apartment to get a computer and other belongings.

He told her not to because of her claim that Harish Patel had once choked her nearly to death.

"She was very scared of her husband, and the way she said that she was being held by her neck a couple of times," Vanlata Patel's brother Rohit Patel said.

He then said it was the last time he spoke with his sister.

Testimony in the trial will resume Friday morning.

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