Calif. Doctor Accused of Driving Tesla Off Cliff with Wife and Children Inside Pleads Not Guilty

Dharmesh Patel, 41, is charged with three counts of attempted murder in connection with the crash that involved his 41-year-old wife and two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy

Dharmesh A. Patel drove Tesla off a cliff in attempted murder suicide
Photo: Facebook

A California radiologist who allegedly intentionally drove his family 250 feet off a dangerous cliff has pleaded not guilty to charges against him.

Dharmesh Arvind Patel, 41, was charged with three counts of attempted murder in connection with the crash that involved his 41-year-old wife and two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy.

Two of the counts have enhancements of domestic violence, great bodily injury, serious felony and prior felony, according to San Mateo County Superior Court records previously reviewed by PEOPLE. The third count has enhancements of serious felony and prior felony.

During a court hearing on Thursday, Patel entered a not-guilty plea, according to ABC 7.

However, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said his office has evidence suggesting that Patel meant to drive his family off of the cliff.

"We believe the evidence will show him intentionally driving his family off a cliff with the intent to kill them," Gallagher said in a news briefing captured by the outlet.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said, according to KRON 4, that Patel's wife made "a statement," adding: "She said, very simply, this was not an accident."

Meanwhile, a judge has banned Patel from having any contact with his family, the outlet reported.

"That includes his wife and his two children," Gallagher said, per ABC 7. "That's personal contact and then contact by him through a third party."

The prosecutor pushed for the ruling considering domestic violence is a factor in the charges. "We think it's prudent, both for the victims and for the integrity of the case, that there be no contact between them and the defendant," he said.

A defense attorney also said Patel's wife doesn't want him to be charged, according to KRON 4.

Still, Gallagher said that he plans to move forward with the charges against Patel.

"Regardless of whether she is cooperative, we believe we have sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt," he said, per KRON 4, noting that the case is a "very dynamic situation whenever you have this violence within a family setting."

Patel is due back in court on March 20. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison, ABC 7 reported.

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He is being held without bail, according to CBS News.

The CHP said in a previous news release that it was alerted of "a vehicle over the side of the cliff on SR-1" around 10:50 a.m local time on Jan 2.

Once the CHP and other responding agencies got to the scene, they saw a white Tesla that had gone 250 to 300 feet over the cliff, the release said. Authorities managed to reach the vehicle and recover the family, who were rushed "to a local hospital with serious injuries."

The crash occurred on a notorious stretch of highway known as the Devil's Slide in San Mateo County, near Pacifica, along the famous Highway 1, which runs the length of California's coastline. The Devil's Slide has been the site of a number of fatalities over the past five decades.

The California Highway Patrol said that after speaking to witnesses and putting together evidence at the scene of the crash that "investigators developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act."

The 4-year-old boy did not suffer any injuries, and the 7-year-old had "significant" injuries and was discharged from a local hospital "fairly quickly."

Patel's attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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