APPLETON, Wis. – Darshana Patel told authorities she was suspicious as she watched her boyfriend stir a smoothie at an ice cream store. When he offered it to her, she noticed powder on the cup's rim, and the pregnant woman feigned illness and didn't drink it.
According to a criminal complaint, the woman says she sent the powder to a laboratory and it turned out to be mifepristone, the abortion pill also known as RU-486.
The test results came too late: She had already suffered two miscarriages in less than a year.
On Thursday, Manishkumar M. Patel, 34, of Appleton, was accused of slipping the drug to the woman without her knowledge. He was charged with seven felonies and two misdemeanors, including attempted first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child, stalking, burglary and two counts of violating a restraining order. The nine charges carry a maximum penalty of 99 1/2 years in prison and a $92,000 fine.
Wisconsin is one of 37 states with a "fetal homicide" law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under the 1998 law, anyone who attacks a pregnant woman and injures or kills her fetus could face life in prison.
"These allegations are devious, diabolical and disturbing," Outagamie County Court Commissioner Brian Figy told Manishkumar Patel at a hearing.
Defense lawyer Thomas Zoesch said he had not had a chance to discuss the case in detail with his client but expects he will plead not guilty. A woman who identified herself Friday morning as the manager of the health clinic where Darshana Patel works said, "She is not talking to anyone today."
Darshana Patel and Manishkumar Patel are not related, and Manishkumar Patel is married to someone else; Patel is a common Indian last name.
The criminal complaint paints a picture of a long-running affair that produced a child, now age 3, but which soured.
The two had known each other since Manishkumar Patel, who holds a legal green card, emigrated to the U.S. from India in 1998, the complaint said. The two began a relationship in 2001 and had a son in 2004.
Darshana Patel said she became pregnant with Manish's child in September 2006 — a child he denied was his — but she miscarried two months later.
She became pregnant with his child again in August 2007, the complaint said, and this time she noticed how attentive Manish became. He even prepared meals for her on occasion.
Then she noticed the powder on the smoothie cup at the store. A short time later, her doctor detected problems in her hormone levels, and she contacted the lab to test the substance in the cup. While waiting for a kit to test the substance, she miscarried. The lab test later confirmed the presence of the abortion pill, the complaint said.
She obtained a restraining order Nov. 13, authorities said.
The complaint said a search of Manishkumar Patel's residence Wednesday found an envelope containing pills labeled as mifepristone, or RU-486. Investigators said they asked him if he knew what kind of pills they were, and he responded, "abortion pills."
He told deputies he got the pills from India, according to the complaint. Access to RU-486 is strictly regulated in the U.S., and it is only administered to women in a doctor's office.
Investigators asked him whether he used the pills to cause the miscarriages and he declined to answer. In a follow-up interview, he admitted giving Darshana "one pill" but did not say when or where, the complaint said.
Patel was ordered held on $750,000 bail after Assistant District Attorney Mark Schroeder said Patel had a net worth of $400,000 and was a flight risk. Patel runs service stations and other businesses.
Investigators had found an airline ticket in Patel's home for a flight scheduled to leave for Germany on Nov. 28, the day after he was arrested, Schroeder said.