Man found guilty for death of Ria Patel

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Ria Patel (Courtesy: Facebook)

Michael Campbell has been found guilty by a Minneapolis jury on two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Indian American Ria Patel, one for gross negligence and the other for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

Patel, 20, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota was a junior at the University of St. Thomas and died on the spot after Campbell, her boyfriend, crashed into a traffic signal while they shared a “passionate kiss” early in the morning on Sept. 17, 2017 in northeast Minneapolis, according to a Star Tribune report.

According to CBS Minnesota, he told investigators that he grabbed his phone and ran from the scene because he was “traumatized” by the sight of Patel’s injuries.

Campbell’s friends who had seen him just two hours before the crash told police that he was “super drunk” at the time.

“Mr. Campbell was probably drunk, he smashed into a pole going 65 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone and he ran away. Then he tried to deflect responsibility for his actions by claiming Ms. Patel was responsible for her own death by kissing him. He also put her family through more distress by pretending that she was still alive,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement.

A post-verdict statement from the county attorney’s office reads: “Patel suddenly grabbed his face while he was driving and gave him a passionate kiss. The crash occurred [supposedly] during that kiss. However, Patel suffered numerous serious injuries to her head and face and Campbell had none, according to testimony. If they had been kissing, Campbell would have had injuries, too.”

According to the Star Tribune, Campbell drove his car into a post near Stinson Boulevard and an Interstate 35W exit ramp at around 3:50 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2017, bringing down the attached traffic light, which hit the passenger’s side of the car and caved in the roof, crushing Patel, which killed her instantly.

Campbell testified in court that he knew Patel was dead but still decided to text her sister about nine hours later asking her if she knew where Patel was, she then testified that Campbell spoke with her on the phone and denied being in a vehicle with Patel the night before.

The Star Tribune reported that Campbell ran about three miles to the home he shared with roommates on Randolph Street NE and then locked himself in his room for several hours while he called Patel’s phone multiple times from a blocked number.

He eventually took an Uber ride to St. Michael, Minnesota where his parents live, but didn’t exactly go to their house and instead spent more than a day there while “he came up with a new story” about the kiss from Patel, which distracted him causing the accident.

Hitesh Patel, Patel’s uncle, told CBS Minnesota “The last six months have been extremely hard for us as we adjust to a new normal; new normal, where we are suffering a life sentence. He blamed Ria for the accident, he blamed Ria saying she wanted fries, he blamed Ria that she tried to kiss him, and that’s why the accident happened.”

According to a Pioneer Press report, the family is still coming into terms with what Campbell said about Patel regarding the accident and added that he never apologized, though Campbell’s attorney, Nancy Yost Laskaris told police that he “did not appear intoxicated and that he was extremely remorseful for his actions following the accident, as was evident in his three suicide attempts and his suicide note that read, ‘I’m so sorry to the Patel family and all my prayers go out to you and I’m sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose, I loved her.’”

Campbell has five offensive driving convictions on his record and is due back in court for sentencing on April 5.