He drove his family off a cliff in a Tesla. Now his wife wants him freed

FILE - In this photo provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, emergency personnel respond to a vehicle over the side of Highway 1 on Jan. 1, 2023, in San Mateo County, Calif. The wife of Dharmesh Patel, a California radiologist accused of trying to kill his family when he drove his Tesla off a cliff along the Northern California coast told rescuers her husband was depressed and needed a psychological evaluation, according to a newly unsealed search warrant affidavit. (Sgt. Brian Moore/San Mateo County Sheriff's Office via AP; File)
Emergency personnel respond in January 2023 after Dharmesh Patel drove his Tesla, with his wife and two children inside, off a cliff along the Northern California coast. (Sgt. Brian Moore / San Mateo County Sheriff's Office via AP)

The wife of a Pasadena man who drove her and their two young children off a Northern California cliff asked a judge to release her husband from jail, saying the family needs him.

Neha Patel testified for the first time Thursday during a hearing over whether her husband, Dharmesh, should have his case removed from criminal court, in a scenario that would see him released from jail and put into a mental health diversion program.

“We need him in our life,” said Patel, who appeared via video call, according to the Mercury News. “We’re not a family without him.”

She and her two children were passengers when Dharmesh Patel drove his Tesla off a cliff Jan. 2, 2023, at Devil's Slide on Highway 1. He was charged with a count of attempted murder for each passenger and has been jailed since. Doctors testifying in Dharmesh Patel's defense have argued that he is fit for mental health diversion and that the crash was probably a result of his major depressive disorder and a psychotic episode.

Read more: Man who drove Tesla off cliff with family in car was 'psychotic,' doctors say

Mental health diversion would mean that he would be released from jail and be placed under a treatment plan by a supervising doctor for two years. If he were to violate the treatment plan or other conditions of release, his case would be returned to court. If he followed the plan, his case would be dropped.

Patel testified at length about the effect her husband's absence has had on the family, calling him a “kind and altruistic” man who “has been my best friend for more than 25 years,” according to the Mercury News. Her testimony was surprising as she told paramedics after the crash that her husband purposefully drove off the cliff.

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“‘He intentionally tried to kill us,’” Patel told paramedics, according to the San Mateo County district attorney.

Despite her testimony, Dist. Atty. Stephen Wagstaffe opposes the diversion of the case. A doctor for the prosecution testified Thursday that Dharmesh Patel suffers from schizoaffective disorder and that his case should not be diverted.

A judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.