Police charge woman after husband found critically burned

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on April 19, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 19 at 6:18 PM

AUSTIN -- Police have charged a woman in connection with a man, her husband, found critically burned at a North Austin apartment.

Shriya Patel, 25, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and arson. Police said the man who was critically burned is her 29-year-old husband of one year.

Tuesday night firefighters responded to a call at the Camden Huntington Apartment Complex on Metric Boulevard. Firefighters said they could smell gasoline from outside and in an upstairs unit, found a man whose body was still smoldering.

"In 17 years in the fire department, I've seen burns this bad, but never burns that were premeditated like this in such a specific incident," said Austin Fire Department Investigator Captain Andy Reardon.

"It's very unusual. And it's kind of strange and disturbing to see the amount of violence involved," added Austin Police Sergeant Christine Chomout.

The victim briefly told first responders what happened.

“She was going to prepare a massage for him in the bathtub and that once he was in the bath tub, oil was poured over him and he said he caught on fire," Chomout said.

Investigators say it wasn’t oil but gasoline that Patel poured onto her husband. The fumes were ignited by two lit candles that were in the bathroom. Investigators say Patel intended for her husband to stay in that bathroom.

"The victim was obviously trapped inside this bathroom for a while,” Reardon said. “We found the bathroom door that swings out was broken at the level of the lock on the way down and it's fairly obvious from the patterns on the door that he kicked his way out that door."

Outside of the bathroom, investigators found a 10-gallon bucket that at one point was labeled "laundry detergent," but it had gasoline inside. They also found a red gas container in the hall closet.

Investigators say Patel knocked the hallway smoke detector off the wall. They found it in the kitchen. They also say she covered two sprinkler heads with a scarf and other materials that she bought at Walmart.

“Family violence detectives were also able to view videotape at Wal-Mart of a woman meeting the suspect's description buying these exact items at the date and time they were on the receipt at the Walmart,” Reardon said.

Police say there was no history of domestic violence, and they don't have a motive.

“He did make some comments to the fire and EMS crews, ‘Why did she burn me? Why did she burn me? All I was trying to do was love her,’” Reardon added.

The man suffered second and third degree burns on 70 percent of his body. There was also has severe damage to his airway. He is listed in stable condition at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Doctors say he is in a medically-induced coma.

Patel is currently in the Travis County Jail on a $500,000 bond. At the time of the incident, she had only been in the United States for seven days. 

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