A 27-year-old woman who burned her new husband to death after luring him to the bathroom by promising a hot oil massage has been found guilty of arson causing death.
A jury today spared Indian national Shriya Patel from an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole over the April 2012 attack, by finding her not guilty of capital punishment.
Instead, Patel could spend anywhere between spend five years to life behind bars for the lesser offense of death by arson. The jury is currently deliberating over the sentence.
My Fox Austin reported Patel lured her husband Bimal Patel, 29, into the bathroom of their Austin, Texas home for a massage in April 2012.
AFD Arson Investigator Captain Andy Reardon told the court that as Patel's new husband sat in the bathtub, she opened the door and threw a blue cup of gasoline on him.
The gasoline was ignited by two candles burning in the bathroom.
Bimal Patel, an aspiring screenwriter, was rushed to hospital with second to third-degree burns to 70 percent of his body and died from his wounds about five months later.
Emergency services said they heard the man yelling, 'Why did she burn me, why did she burn me - all I was trying to do was love her,' when they attended the scene.
Police said they found a 10-gallon bucket of gasoline, lighters and candles in the apartment, along with pieces of evidence that suggested Patel had tried to prevent the fire from being extinguished, including a disabled fire alarm and sprinkler heads covered in plastic bags.
During the trial, prosecutors alleged Shriya Patel was unhappy with her arranged marriage and planned the attack. She had been in the U.S. for just seven days before the bathroom incident.
Prosecutors said Patel was upset that her new husband didn't live up to her expectations, and once she moved to the U.S. she found he wasn't as wealthy as she had hoped.
They also said Patel was also captured on CCTV buying the items at a supermarket, suggesting she had planned the violent attack.
'In 17 years at the fire department, I have seen burns like this but nothing that was premeditated like this,' Reardon told KXAN.
Neighbor Rathan Rajendren said he heard commotion before the incident took place and told how Patel denied setting her husband on fire.
'She was explaining to the officers that she was massaging him and all of a sudden he poured the oil or gasoline on himself,' he told KXAN.
The defense told the court that Bimal Patel wanted to kill himself and forced his wife to help.
KVUE reported that defense attorneys presented evidence that cotton balls in Bimal Patel's nose appeared to have been there before he was burned, suggesting he knew he would be set on fire and wanted to mask the smell.
On the stand Monday, friends of the victim remembered Bilal Patel as a self-proclaimed social butterfly who touched the lives of everyone he met.
Rob Newman cried as he recalled how trustworthy and dependable his friend was.
Gabe Hogan told the court about visiting his friend in hospital after the attack. He said the odor was awful and his friend looked like a monster.
'It was horrific,' Hogan said, crying. 'It was worse than anything I could imagine.'
On behalf of the defense, Shriya Patel’s young brother, 23-year-old Mrugesh Patel, was Skyped into the courtroom on a TV screen facing the jurors.
He contested the state’s portrayal of Shriya Patel as an upper-class young woman, saying she hadn't studied in London and had been raised in a middle-class family in Dubai. Her father worked in a factory and her mother was a housewife.