Doctor Who Drove Tesla Off Cliff with Family Inside Thought Kids Would Be Sex Trafficked: D.A.

Dharmesh Arvind Patel, 40, has pleaded not guilty and is seeking a mental health diversion

<p>Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock; Alamy</p> Dharmesh Arvind Patel.

Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock; Alamy

Dharmesh Arvind Patel.

The doctor who drove his car off a California cliff with his family inside in January 2023 suffered a psychotic break that compelled him to believe his kids would be sex trafficked, the district attorney in charge of his prosecution says.

According to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, two doctors testified on April 24 that Dharmesh Arvind Patel was experiencing a psychotic episode at the time of the crash, leading him to believe that his two children may be sex trafficked, The Los Angeles Times reported. Doctors for the defense also reportedly said he suffered from major depressive disorder and was experiencing a psychotic break at the time.

On Jan. 2, 2023, the radiologist, who was 40 at the time of the crash, allegedly drove his Tesla off a 250-foot cliff at "Devil’s Slide" while his wife Neha and their two children, at the time a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, were inside. ("Devil's Slide is a stretch of treacherous, rocky coastline on Highway 1 about 15 miles south of San Francisco.)

Patel and his family survived, but the father was subsequently charged with three counts of attempted murder, PEOPLE previously reported.

Related: Wife of Doctor Who Drove Tesla Off Cliff Asks Court to Spare Him Prison: 'We Need Him in Our Lives'

According to the L.A. Times, Patel pleaded not guilty and is seeking mental health diversion. If granted, he would be released from jail and put on a two-year treatment plan.

But prosecutors believe the case should remain in court, alleging that the doctor who diagnosed Patel on behalf of the prosecution found that he is suffering from schizoaffective disorder, not major depressive disorder with a psychotic feature, per the L.A. Times.

Related: Father Who Drove His Family Of 4 Off Cliff Suffered Psychotic Break, Doctors Say

“If he goes off his medication, how do you know?” Wagstaffe previously said, according to the L.A. Times. “It’s not like being on probation or on parole. It’s purely the visits with the psychiatrist.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, schizoaffective disorder is “marked by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania.”

Related: Neighbor of Calif. Family Driven Off Cliff by Father Says, 'We Don't Know What Goes on Behind Closed Doors'

During a court hearing that took place via Zoom on May 2, his wife Neha asked the court to spare him prison time and consider mental health treatment.

Facebook Dharmesh Arvind Patel and family.
Facebook Dharmesh Arvind Patel and family.

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“I don’t want to see Dharmesh prosecuted with any of his charges,” she said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I am pleading with the court to grant him his mental health diversion.”

She added that her husband “never had an episode" in the 25 years that she knew him and said "we are not a family without him," the outlet reported.

Judge Susan Jakubowski will determine if Patel poses a public safety threat and if mental health contributed to his decision, according to the Chronicle.

If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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