Tesla Driver Who Drove Family Off Cliff Was Experiencing Psychotic Break

In testimony last Wednesday, a psychologist said the Pasadena radiologist who drove his wife and children off of a cliff last year had been experiencing a psychotic episode that led him to fear that his children were at risk of being trafficked.

Dr. Mark Patterson, who was called as an expert witness by the defense, said he met with Dharmesh Patel a dozen times since he drove his Tesla over a San Mateo County cliff in January 2023.

Patterson said he diagnosed Patel as suffering from a depressive disorder and anxious distress that led to a single psychotic episode. He testified that in the weeks before the incident Patel thought he was being followed and believed he heard footsteps. This paranoid, delusional thinking led him to “protect his family from a worse fate,” Patterson said.

Patel has been charged with three counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors accuse him of intentionally driving off the cliff near the Tom Lantos Tunnels in San Mateo County.

Patel pleaded not guilty to the charges and is seeking to avoid prison by qualifying for mental health treatment instead under a 2018 diversion law that the state expanded in 2023.

Last week’s hearing will determine if Patel was suffering from a mental illness that contributed to his actions. Judge Susan Jakubowski must determine if the defendant would benefit from mental health treatment and whether he continues to be a threat to public safety.

Dr. Patterson told the court that Patel’s diagnosis did qualify him for the mental health diversion law and would respond well to therapy and medication, making him a low risk for future violence.

Patterson also told Judge Jakubowski that Patel had expressed remorse for the crash.

An attorney representing the defendant’s wife Neha Patel told the judge that her client would address the court when the hearing continued in May.

Patel drove Neha and their two children off Highway 1 on January 2, 2023. Both Patel and his wife, along with their older child, were seriously injured in the subsequent crash. The younger child was largely unharmed.

Following the crash, Neha Patel told rescuers that her husband drove over the cliff on purpose and suggested that he was having mental health issues.