A 26-year-old Indian national wanted for the 2015 murder of his wife in Maryland is the newest addition to the FBI’s ten most wanted Fugitives’ list, and a reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to his capture, the Bureau and local police announced on Tuesday.
Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, a native of India, had been in the US on an expired visa with his 21-year-old wife Palak when the crime took place, official said. At the time of the murder, both were working the night shift at a donut shop about an hour outside Washington DC in Hanover, Maryland, owned by a relative of Patel’s.
Just before midnight on April 12, 2015, while customers were in the front of the shop, Patel is said to have stabbed Palak multiple times in the back of the shop and left by a rear door.
Investigators theorise that Palak Patel wanted to return to India – their visas had expired just month before – and her husband was against the idea.
“The best guess is that he didn’t want her to leave,” said Special Agent Jonathan Shaffer, who is investigating the case from the FBI’s Baltimore Division. “It’s possible that he thought he would be disgraced by her leaving and going back to India.”
After leaving the donut shop, Patel walked across the street to the apartment he shared with his wife, retrieved a few items and some cash, and then hailed a taxi. The cab driver took him to a hotel in New Jersey near Newark Liberty International Airport. “He checked in about 3 am with no bags, just the clothes on his back,” Shaffer said. “He checked out around 10 am, and took a hotel shuttle to Newark Penn Station. That’s the last anyone has seen of him.”
After the murder, a customer who entered the shop realised something was wrong when no one came to take his order. He alerted a nearby Anne Arundel County Police Department officer, who discovered Palak Patel’s body. “It was horrific what had been done to this young woman,” Shaffer said.
Local police then requested FBI assistance, and several days after the murder, a federal arrest warrant was issued charging Patel with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He has also been charged with his wife’s murder.
Although the motive for the murder is uncertain, and there is no way to know if Patel planned the crime, Shaffer noted that “his actions show a very cool and calculated mentality about escaping the scene and fleeing the area.”
Investigators believe that Patel could be with distant relatives in the US or that he could have fled to Canada. “Or he could have traveled through Canada back to India,” Shaffer said. “Those are among the plausible options we are exploring.”
The FBI believes the $100,000 reward will help in the capture of Patel.
“Somebody out there who either sees the publicity or knows something already but has been reluctant to come forward will be encouraged by that amount of money,” Shaffer said. “Whether they do it for the right reasons or just for the money doesn’t really matter. Patel needs to be apprehended.”
Information regarding Patel-who should be considered armed and dangerous- should be conveyed to the local FBI office or the nearest US Embassy or Consulate, through a tip on the FBI website, the Bureau said.