Indian woman accused of killing husband in US faces life term

Houston, Mar 7: US prosecutors have rested their case against a 27-year-old Indian-origin woman, who faces life sentence for allegedly killing her husband by setting him afire two years ago.

Shriya Patel's trial began on March 4 in Austin,Texas, with prosecutors accusing her of luring her husband into the bathtub for a massage, dousing him with gasoline and then setting him ablaze before shutting him in the bathroom.

Bimal Patel, 29, died at the burn centre of the San Antonio Military Medical Center, nearly five months after the April 17, 2012, incident. Judge David Crain told jurors the defence will begin making its case today. In testimony yesterday, the state presented evidence from DNA experts who said Shriya Patel's fingerprints were found on a 10-gallon white bucket that contained gasoline and plastic bags that witnesses have said were used to cover the sprinklers in the couple's North Austin apartment.

Testing results on prints found on a red gas can could not be matched to her, witnesses said. She faces a life sentence in prison without parole if convicted, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Under cross-examination, the crime scene specialists testified that they were not asked to test the materials in the apartment until last month, nearly two years after the incident.

The defence received the DNA evidence on Monday, they said. The evidence came during a heated cross-examination of an arson investigator in the capital murder trial for Shriya Patel. Her lawyers are arguing that her husband killed himself and forced her to help.

In opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Jim Young said Bimal Patel, who had been born in India, "grew up basically an American kid" in Amarillo. He went to Texas Tech and moved to Austin, where he became involved in business, but his father was a traditionalist and had pushed him to seek a partner through an arranged marriage service in India, the prosecutor said.

Through this service, he submitted a resume and met Shriya Patel, Young said. The two married, but it took about a year for her to get her passport to come to the US, and she had only been in the country a week when she decided to kill her husband, the prosecutor said.


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