Jury hears defendant's statement in homicide

Woman charged with killing husband says she acted in self-defense

January 29, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The jury in the case of an Indian dentist from Canada charged with killing her husband heard the suspect's taped statement to police yesterday in which she said she acted in self-defense.

Alpna Patel, 27, also outlined how her life was in shambles at the time she allegedly stabbed her husband, because her father-in-law tried to micromanage the couple's arranged marriage.

Patel lived with her in-laws in Buffalo, N.Y., during her dental residency; her husband, Viresh Patel, 26, was a surgical resident at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.

The 45-minute statement -- which Patel made to city police the morning after her husband was found stabbed to death in their Pimlico apartment last March -- was played yesterday to refute prosecutors' suggestions that Patel planned the murder.

It was played during a cross-examination of a city homicide detective by Patel's lawyer, Edward Smith Jr., that resulted in both parties apologizing to the court. Detective Marvin Sydnor apologized for calling the incident a "murder" five times, causing Smith to ask the detective if he had "a problem with women."

On the tape, Patel details confronting her husband of 10 months with 39 handwritten points -- under the headline "We Can Work It Out" -- that she discussed with him an hour before the homicide.

But she said their talk was halted when her father-in-law called from Buffalo and told the couple to go to bed, which they did.

Later, Patel said, her husband woke up and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. "Then he came back and I felt him kind of like straddle where I was on the bed, so I woke up and the next thing I knew I saw this knife looking right at me.

"I mean, he was holding it right at my neck , so I screamed and I fought with him. In the process of the fight we struggled and the next thing I knew there was just blood everywhere," Patel said as she sobbed.

Patel also said she might have stabbed her husband intentionally a second time, but only after he lunged at her while his mother was caring for his initial wound.

Prosectors believe Patel intended to kill her husband by planning a surprise attack. They said Patel secretly flew to Baltimore and checked into a hotel where she spent 10 hours writing the points for discussion.

About midnight, she allegedly went to the Pimlico apartment, confronted her sleeping husband, and then stabbed him as his mother slept on a couch several feet away, a prosecutor said last week.

In the taped statement, Patel admitted to checking into the hotel and confronting her husband but said she came "to say goodbye."

"I just felt that his family his father was trying to control him too much in our relationship and not letting us have any freedom," Patel said. "I felt I had to come and speak to him without his father's presence so that I can make sense of him and see if he'll understand how I feel and why I am leaving for a while."

Almost all of Patel's points, which were seized by police the night of the killing, dealt with how Patel's father in-law treated women.

She said she told her husband how his father mistreated his mother. "Basically [he] made his wife into nothing," Patel said in her statement.

Her father-in-law, Nandlal Patel, a construction engineer in Buffalo, declined to comment yesterday but is expected to testify next week.

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