A new bride, who arrived in Austin, Texas 15 days ago, was charged with setting her husband on fire April 17 and is in custody on $1 million bail.
Shriya Biman Patel, 25, allegedly poured gasoline over her husband in the midst of a hot-oil massage, and lit him on fire. Police responded to 911 calls from neighbors, and found the victim naked in his bathroom, with severe burns over 70 percent of his body. He was airlifted to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Police have not identified the victim, but India-West has learned that he is Biman Patel, 29. A spokesperson for the Brooke Army Medical Center confirmed that Patel had been brought to the hospital late evening April 17 and remains in critical condition in the burn clinic, in a medically-induced coma.
Shriya Patel was immediately taken into custody and remains at Travis County Jail. She will have her first appearance in court May 10. The young woman has been charged with aggravated assault, a first degree felony, and arson. Each charge carries a bond of $500,000.
Patel told police on the scene that her husband had set himself on fire.
But Austin Police Department Senior Officer Dennis Farris told India-West that there was ample evidence to show that Shriya Patel had planned the attack. “She actually went to Walmart and bought several items to tape up the sprinkler heads and smoke detectors,” he stated. A Walmart security tape shows Shriya buying several items there, including scarves used in the attack.
Police have not identified a motive for the attack, said Farris.
Police arrived at the scene at about 9 p.m. April 17, and detected a strong odor of gasoline in the Patels’ apartment. Austin firefighters were dispatched to the scene to attend to Biman Patel.
"Why did she burn me?" he was heard saying as he was being wheeled to a medical helicopter. "Why did she burn me? All I was trying to do was love her,” he said, according to local media.
"In 17 years at the fire department, I have seen burns like this but nothing that was premeditated like this," Austin Fire Department Captain Andy Reardon told local media.
Little is known about either Shriya or Biman Patel. An anonymous reader, responding to a Houston Press story online, commented, “There are a lot of details which seem to missing in this story. This girl, was born and brought up in Dubai, UAE, a very silent and simple girl which was in the US only for a week.”
“I cannot comment on her mental status, but she has no criminal background; in fact she was excited to go to the US and begin a new life with her husband. Something fishy seems to be going on,” said the post.
Vijay Mehta, a fixture in the Indian American community in Texas, told India-West he too believed something suspicious was happening with the couple.
“Indian men can be very jerky. Even within seven days he could have said or done something to completely set her off,” he said, adding, “It amazes me, how, within seven days, she was smart enough to plan all this.”
The Indian American community in Texas is a tight-knit one, but Biman Patel is not known to many people, said Mehta. “He seemed to live in total isolation,” said Mehta, who runs an informal matchmaking service.
“My first thought was to go to Travis County Jail and make sure Shriya had some support and vegetarian food,” Mehta told India-West.
“It sounds like she is a horrible person but who knows what he is like?” said Mehta.
According to AP, the couple had been married for a year, and Shriya had only been in the U.S. for seven days after coming from India.