Jury still out in Patel murder trial

Harish Patel

December 17, 2009 2:35:50 PM PST
The fate of a Cary man accused of murdering his wife then setting her body on fire is in the hands of a jury. Harish Patel is charged with the death of his estranged wife Vanlata Patel.

The case was turned over to the jury Wednesday afternoon after they heard more than two weeks of evidence -- all from prosecutors.

Jurors picked up deliberation Thursday. During their first full day of deliberations, jurors requested to inspect a gas can prosecutors say Patel used to set her body on fire.

They also requested three copies of testimony from a detective before going home. The jury is expected to pick up the case on Friday morning.

In his closing argument, the prosecutor used a red plastic gas can as a prop. The can is a centerpiece of the state's case.

The jury saw surveillance video of Harish Patel buying it and gas at a convenience store near his apartment in Cary on January 16, 2008.

Hours later, his wife's body was found burning off I-85 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.

Vanlata Patel's son reported her missing to the Cary Police Department on January 17, after she failed to board a flight to visit him in Canada.

Harish Patel's attorney reminded the jury the state's case is based on circumstantial evidence and theory. And that the prosecutor did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Patel could spend the rest of his life behind bars without parole.

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