LAKELAND — Polk County Sheriff’s Homicide detectives are looking for a woman who may be suffering from postpartum depression, and may have confessed to her husband that she killed their baby.
On Friday, Feb. 17 sometime after 2 p.m., Neha Patel, 32, returned to her home in Lakeland, after being missing for nearly two days. According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s report on the case, when she got home her husband Rasesh Patel saw she had their one-year-old baby boy wrapped in blanket. Neha Patel refused to answer her husband’s questions about where she had been.
“Eventually Neha tells Rashesh that she killed the baby earlier that day,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the case. “Neha then climbs into bed, and refuses to talk. Rasesh calls Neha’s father. She hears him calling her father, gets angry, says she’s going to kill herself, and leaves.”
Homicide detectives are now looking for Neha Patel, who worked as a pharmacist at the CVS pharmacy on Socrum Loop Road in North Lakeland. She quit that job on Sunday, Feb. 12. She had been on medication herself, which her husband told deputies she was no longer taking.
“Neha is considered a suspect in this homicide and is also considered missing and endangered,” Eleazer noted. “She has threatened in the past to kill herself.”
Anyone with information about this investigation, or who knows where Neha Patel is, is being urged to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s by calling 9-1-1 or 863-298-6200.
The case started around 7:20 a.m. on Thursday, with what became an increasingly frantic search on the part of Rasesh Patel, 33, to find his wife.
That morning, he left his home on Colonel Ford Drive in Lakeland for work, taking his 4-year-old daughter to preschool on the way. He began calling home that morning to check on his wife and their one-year-old baby boy, Ishan. No one answered.
Rasesh Patel kept calling his house until early afternoon. Still getting no answer, he then returned to the house around 1:30 that afternoon. His wife and baby were gone, although Neha Patel had left behind her cell phone. Rasesh Patel began calling friends and family asking if tbhey knew where she was, but no one did. He picked up his daughter from preschool and went back home.
Rasesh Patel got a phone call from American Express around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, telling him that Neha’s credit card had been used at a Shell gas station in Ocala. He did an online search of hotels in Ocala, then drove to that city looking for his wife, unsuccessfully. He got back home around 7:30 p.m., then called the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to report that his wife was missing.
He told deputies that his wife suffers from postpartum depression and had not been taking her medication, which was left behind at their home.
Later that night, Rasesh Patel took his daughter and a friend to Tampa General Hospital looking for his wife and baby.
“Neha has driven there before because the baby was born premature and stayed there for four months,” Eleazer said.
But his wife wasn’t there, so Rasesh Patel and his daughter went back home. His wife returned the next day.
After she got there, Rasesh Patel called 9-1-1 to get immediate medical help for the one-year-old baby, and first responders told him Ishan had been dead for some time. At that point, the sheriff’s office put out a statewide BOLO (Be On Look Out) alert for Neha Patel and a description of her car.
“Detectives know that Neha’s credit card was used at 5:26 a.m. (Friday) morning at a parking garage at Tampa International Airport,” Eleazer noted. “It was then used at 5:33 a.m. this morning at a 7-11 gas station in Tampa.”
Neha Patel’s car is a light blue 2008 Toyota Sienna van, with Florida tag A10 0NJ.
Anyone with information on this case who wants to remain anonymous and become eligible for a cash reward can call 1-800-226-TIPS or log onto www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.
iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, visit www.tipsoft.com.
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