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Indian-American woman charged with setting husband on fire

Washington, March 5 (IANS) Was it murder or suicide? That was the question before a Texas court as the murder trial began for an Indian-American woman accused of killing her husband by putting him on fire in a bathtub.

In opening statements Tuesday before an Austin, Texas, court, prosecutors alleged that Shriya Biman Patel lured her husband into the bathtub for a massage, doused him with gasoline and then set him on fire before shutting him in the bathroom.

But defense lawyers contended that Bimal Patel had wanted to commit suicide and forced his subservient wife to help, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Bimal Patel, 29, died at the burn centre of the San Antonio Military Medical Centre, nearly five months after the April 17, 2012, incident.

Shriya Patel, 27, who has been incarcerated on $1 million bail since her arrest nearly two years ago, stands charged with capital murder, arson with intent to cause bodily injury or death and aggravated assault.

She faces a sentence of automatic life in prison without parole, if convicted.

Prosecutors said they did not know the reason why Shriya Patel chose to kill her husband, who had been born in India but “grew up basically an American kid” in Amarillo, so horrifically but suggested she likely did not love him as their marriage had been arranged.

But defense lawyer Joe James Sawyer, as cited by the American-Statesman, told jurors that at the heart of the case, they would find “an unhappy man who decided to leave his life in the most hideous way possible”.

Bimal Patel had been struggling financially and could barely pay his bills, defense lawyers told jurors.

They said he told his wife to buy the products at Walmart and helped her load the gasoline into a taxi.

“He killed himself,” Sawyer was quoted as saying. “She did nothing wrong.”

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