They were the ‘idyllic’ family. Now, the father is accused of driving a Tesla off a cliff to kill them
They were the “idyllic” family at the end of the cul-de-sac.
With their pair of Teslas parked in the driveway, Dharmesh Patel, 41, and his wife, Neha, 41, were the most visible family on the quiet residential block of single-family homes on Lomay Place in Pasadena. As a couple, they pushed a stroller occupied by their 4-year-old-son and 7-year-old daughter as they went for runs in the morning. Patel would pass out cookies to neighbors. His wife started a mass text thread for neighbors to stay in contact.
On Dec. 24, before he left for Northern California for the holidays, Patel even brought his next-door neighbors a poinsettia plant — which is growing in their living room now.
But the hushed street was shaken Tuesday with the news that Patel had been charged with attempted murder and child endangerment after he drove the family’s white Tesla off a cliff on Highway 1 at an area called Devil’s Slide in Northern California. Neha and the two children were in the car with him. Everyone survived the 250- to 300-foot fall, but the celebration of the miraculous rescue of the family quickly soured after Patel was arrested at Stanford Hospital, where he is being treated for injuries sustained in the crash.
“They’re a beautiful, idyllic family, no indication of issues,” said Roger Newmark, who has lived on the block more than 40 years. “It’s so strange because he is a great guy. Maybe it was a moment of insanity.”
Newmark said that the Patels moved into the house at the end of the cul-de-sac about five years ago and quickly became a fixture of the tree-lined block and the picture of a happy nuclear family. They sent out Christmas cards this year featuring photos of the family members, smiling brightly.
Dharmesh Arvind Patel, 41, of Pasadena was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and child endangerment after crash, CHP says.
The card wished their neighbors a merry Christmas and happy new year, from “The Patels,” written in script at the bottom. Inside the Patel home, a Christmas tree still stands decorated with ornaments. An easel for the children is mounted in the corner of one room, still blank. Outside the home, a stroller sits under the eaves.
“Love fall most of all,” reads the doormat at the front door.
Patel — a radiologist who worked at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center — was often seen outside playing with the kids, and he never seemed to look away from them, said one neighbor. On social media, Neha posted photos of Patel and the children, documenting the kids as they grew from babies to toddlers. One photo shows their son’s first birthday “fiesta.” In another post, Neha complained of her husband’s reaction to a proposal on the reality television show “The Bachelorette.”
“So Dharmy,” a friend responded, using a nickname for Patel.
“I love Dharmy,” said another.
“He’s just so present,” said Sarah Walker, who lives a few homes down and spent time with the Patels because she has children of a similar age. “Dharmesh and I would wave ‘Hi,’ but he would always come over and have a conversation. He was always happy and ready to talk.”
Dharmesh Patel delivers a poinsettia plant to a neighbor’s house.
Video surveillance taken on a Ring camera on Christmas Eve at the Newmark home shows Patel walking over to deliver a poinsettia plant to his neighbors, though they weren’t home. He left the plant and a Christmas card after speaking to a relative who was taking care of the house.
“I’m Dharmesh,” he said to the woman, telling her he lived just next door. He gestured back toward his home, where the white Tesla is parked outside the garage.
“Can I just leave it [the poinsettia] at the front door?”
Police had never responded to any domestic disturbances at the Patel home, according to a spokeswoman for the Pasadena city manager.
Any potential threats to the Patels seemed to come from outside their home. Police came to the Patels’ address nine times since 2017, responding to burglary alarms blaring or suspicious persons reported.
Two children and two adults were pulled alive from the wreckage of a Tesla that plunged off a cliff near a treacherous area known as Devil’s Slide.
The incidents were all labeled as false alarms, unfounded or canceled, according to Pasadena Police Department records shared with The Times. The two suspicious person incidents were marked off as “gone on arrival.”
Investigators have not yet announced any motive behind their attempted murder charge, or disclosed what evidence led them to the charge.
After looking through evidence of the crash, investigators with the California Highway Patrol “developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act” and placed Patel under arrest, according to a news release.
Patel and his family remained hospitalized Wednesday. The San Mateo district attorney told The Times he had not yet received information about the case from the CHP.
When he is fit to be released from the hospital, where he is under constant police supervision, Patel will be booked into the San Mateo County Jail, according to Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe.
But as they wait for answers, neighbors continue to struggle to square the charges with the friendly family man they knew.
“Really I can’t believe it,” said Walker. “No one can believe it. They felt like newlyweds. The way they interact and look at each other, it just felt like they should be together.”
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