Woman accused of setting husband on fire found guilty of arson

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by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News and KVUE.com Staff

khou.com

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 2:27 PM

AUSTIN -- A woman accused of setting her husband on fire in April 2012 has been found guilty of arson causing death, but not guilty of capital murder.

Prosecutors told jurors Shriya Patel lured her husband Bimal Patel to the bathroom for a massage, doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. Defense attorneys argue Bimal did it to himself and forced Shriya to help.

Testimony ended on Friday when defense attorneys called their only witness, an associate professor of Indian Culture from the University of Texas.

She told the jury about the nature of arranged marriages and said women are encouraged to marry a man for his success and wealth. Defense attorneys also presented evidence that cotton balls in Bimal's nose appeared to have been there before second and third degree burns covered his body, suggesting he knew he would be set on fire and wanted to mask the smell.

Prosecutors say Shriya was upset that Bimal didn't live up to her expectations, and once she moved to the U.S. she found he wasn't as wealthy as she had hoped.

Witnesses testified Shriya loved another man and married Bimal to make him jealous. On top of that, prosecutors say most of the evidence doesn't support the assisted suicide theory. Arson investigators testified that burn patterns on Bimal's body showed he was lying in the tub when Shriya used a cup to throw the gas on him.

An alternate had to be brought in Monday because a juror didn't show up. The judge said a police report was filed for the juror over the weekend.

The jury was dismissed by the judge until 1:30 Monday after reading the verdict. That's when the sentencing phase of the trial will begin. Patel faces five to 99 years in prison.

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