Indian-origin woman found guilty of setting husband afire

Houston, Mar 11: A 27-year-old Indian-origin woman has been found guilty by a US jury of arson causing death to her husband two years ago, but not guilty of capital murder.

The Travis County Jury found Shriya Patel guilty of arson causing death to her husband. The jury was dismissed by Judge David Crain until tomorrow after reading the verdict. That's when the sentencing phase of the trial will begin.

Shriya faces five to 99 years in prison. Prosecutors accused Shriya of luring her husband Bimal Patel, 29, into the bathtub for a massage, dousing him with gasoline and then setting him on fire on April 17, 2012.

Bimal died at the burn centre of the San Antonio Military Medical Centre, nearly five months after the incident. Defence attorneys argue Bimal did it to himself and forced Shriya to help.

Testimony ended on Friday when defence 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.

Defence 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 US she found he wasn't as wealthy as she had hoped.

Witnesses testified Shriya loved another man and married Bimal to make him jealous. Prosecutors said 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 gasoline on him.


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