New York, Feb 14 (IANS): An Indian-American, who was accused of deliberately driving his Tesla off a California cliff with his wife and children inside, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.
Dharmesh A. Patel, 41, of Pasadena has been charged with "attempted first-degree murder and child abuse, as well as enhancements for great bodily injury and domestic abuse".
Appearing before a Redwood City courthouse last week, Patel, a radiologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, entered his not-guilty plea.
If convicted on the three counts of murder charges, Patel could get a life sentence in prison.
According to The New York Post, Patel has tapped a prominent California attorney, Joshua Bentley, to defend his case, and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 20.
San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said that statement from Patel's wife as well as witness accounts from other motorists and video of the roadway gave enough evidence to frame charges against him.
A San Mateo judge had ordered to hold Patel without bail at the Maguire Correctional Facility, citing the danger he poses to his family.
Patel's car was travelling south on State Route 1 on January 2 when it went over a 250-foot cliff at Devil's Slide, south of the Tom Lantos Tunnels, and flipped and landed on its wheels near the water's edge.
Firefighters had to cut the vehicle to pull Patel's two children -- a seven-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy -- from the vehicle. The daughter suffered a serious injury, while the boy escaped with just bruises.
The couple was pulled out of the vehicle's windows.
Investigators are yet to establish Patel's motive behind the act.
"We're looking into what led up to this. Was there depression or anything else? It wasn't just that he was trying to kill them, he was trying to kill himself too," Wagstaffe had said in a late January press conference.
Patel has been ordered not to contact his wife or their children.