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Shriya Patel found guilty of ‘arson causing death’

Escapes capital murder verdict in husband’s death.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: The jury in the case of 27 year-old Shriya Patel, who is on trial for allegedly burning her husband to death in the bathtub of their home in Austin, Texas, two years ago, ultimately found her not guilty of capital murder, but guilty of “arson causing death.”

Shriya Patel (courtesy of Austin Police Department)
Shriya Patel (courtesy of Austin Police Department)

Her acquittal for the larger charge means that Patel will no longer face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, but she was still found guilty for causing her husband’s death. That fact means that she is still facing a prison term of 5 to 99 years, depending on how the sentencing phase of the trial ultimately goes.

Patel had been in the US for only one week on April 17, 2012, when she immolated her then-29 year-old husband, Bimal Patel, in the bathtub of their apartment. Patel survived his wounds for about five months before dying at a local hospital, and a motive in the death was never conclusively proven.

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Prosecutors contended that Patel was unhappy with the fact that her marriage was arranged, and killed her husband as some sort of revenge. The defense alleged that Bimal Patel wanted to die, and compelled his wife to kill him. When first responders arrived at the apartment, they saw that smoke alarms had been disabled, and the fire sprinklers were covered.

Bimal Patel (courtesy of The Claude News).
Bimal Patel (courtesy of The Claude News).

Local Fox News affiliate KTBC-7 reports that friends and relatives of Bimal Patel appeared disappointed in the reaction, while Shriya Patel was quite relieved at having been cleared of the capital murder charge. The jury took some time to deliver the verdict, and had some drama of their own when one of the jurors suddenly decided not to show up on Monday morning.

The jury, which now has an alternate to replace the absent one, will hear more testimony and be presented with new evidence as it moves towards deciding on a punishment for Patel.