Vanlata Patel was reported missing by her son on January 17. Just a day earlier, on January 16 around 2:30 p.m. the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of a brush fire near I-85's mile marker 19. Once the fire was extinguished, crews found the remains of an unknown woman who was conclusively identified on January 22 by Virginia medical examiners as Mrs. Patel.
Hours before, Harish Patel told Eyewitness News in an interview that he missed his wife. "It looks like I am the suspect. And that's a very disturbing thing," Patel said during an interview on January 22.
He said he knew nothing about his wife's disappearance a week earlier. Patel did admit they were going through a messy divorce and he said he wanted to reconcile. "I tried to tell her that, 'Let's get back together. You tell me what do you want me to do and we'll take it from there," he said.
According to court records, Vanlata Patel said hundreds of thousands of dollars in Swiss Bank notes the couple held was mostly her money. She moved to Canada after the split, but came back to Wake County in January. When she didn't return to Canada, her some reported her missing. Harish Patel told Eyewitness News he didn't know where she was, "When I heard from him that she's really missing, I could not believe that."
Cary Police didn't believe Patel and charged him with his wife's murder on February 11.
Search warrants released Monday shows Cary Police found a surveillance video taken on January 16 from the Circle K gas station on Harrison Avenue. According to the warrant, in the video Harish Patel could be seen buying a red container, which is commonly used to contain gasoline, and 'paying for' gasoline pumped by Harish Patel.
The search warrant also states Patel contacted Cary EMS to report that he consumed alcohol and was "dying." EMS and Cary Police responded to his house and recovered a knife and documents which they believe may be relevant or directly related to the murder investigation.
Patel has been charged with felony murder, a class A felony punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. During his first court appearance, Patel told a judge he couldn't afford an attorney.