Psychotic Break Led a Father to Drive His Family of 4 over a Cliff, Medical Experts Reveal

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The man who allegedly drove his car off a California cliff with his family inside the vehicle experienced a psychotic break at the time of the incident, according to testimony from medical experts. Dharmesh Arvind Patel is accused of driving his Tesla off a 250-foot cliff at Devil’s Slide on Jan. 2 with his wife Neha, 41, and their two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, inside. Patel was arrested following the crash at Stanford Hospital and charged with three counts of attempted murder, as well as child abuse.

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On April 24, during testimony in San Mateo County, California, defense doctors Mark Patterson and James Armontrout explained that Patel, 40, was suffering from a psychotic episode that made him believe his children could be victims of sex trafficking, according to The Los Angeles Times. They also mentioned that Patel had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder with psychotic features.

Patel, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is seeking mental health diversion, which, if granted, could lead to his release from jail and involvement in a two-year treatment plan. If Patel meets the requirements of the treatment plan and does not commit another crime, his charges would be dropped at the end of the two-year period, according to the L.A. Times.

However, prosecutors oppose the diversion, asserting that Patel was suffering from schizoaffective disorder, not major depressive disorder, as the defense doctors suggested. They argue that a simple treatment plan might not be enough to prevent Patel from posing a future risk, suggesting the need for closer monitoring and a continuation of the court case.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the L.A. Times that the lack of supervision in a diversion program concerns him, as there would be no oversight outside of Patel’s doctor visits. Wagstaffe emphasized that if Patel stopped taking his medication, there would be no mechanism in place to detect it.

At the court hearing in February, where Patel entered his not-guilty plea, his defense attorney, Josh Bentley, revealed that Patel’s wife, Neha, did not want him to face prosecution, KNTV reported.

Patel and his wife sustained injuries in the crash, while their daughter was hospitalized with more severe injuries. Their young son, however, had only minor bruises.

After the incident, Neha reportedly told paramedics that “he [Patel] intentionally tried to kill us.” Wagstaffe explained to PEOPLE that multiple witnesses confirmed her statement during the aftermath of the crash.

Patel’s case remains ongoing, with both sides contesting the terms of his proposed release and the appropriate course of action regarding his mental health treatment.

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