01/11/10 — Family: Victims were kind, religious

View Archive

Family: Victims were kind, religious

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 11, 2010 1:46 PM

When Rupel Patel got a phone call from the manager at Goldsboro's America's Best Value Inn, she knew something had to be wrong with her aunt.

Soon, the news came -- Bhavanaben Patel, 61, and Bhavanaben's husband, Suryakant Patel, 65, had been found dead in Room 108 at the U.S. 70 Bypass hotel.

Police have declined to say how the Patels had been killed, only that they are victims of apparent homicides in mid-December.

The couple lived in Room 108 of the inn, where they had performed housekeeping work for about two years. They had immigrated from India just a few years ago, in 2004, seeking a new life and to get closer to family here, family members said.

Both state and local authorities remain convinced that evidence points to an outside suspect entering the Patels' room and slaying them, investigators have said.

"There's just things in the scene that show ... the injuries were not done by themselves," Sgt. Chad Calloway has said.

Police say they are baffled by the case, and although there is some early suspicion that the case might have been a robbery, nothing has solidified, people close to the case have said.

"I can't say whether or not anything was stolen, at this point," Calloway said.

"Our best guess, we would lean toward the motive being a robbery or something, because we don't have anything that suggests it would be motivated by anything else," he said.

Police interviews with people who knew the couple liked them, and indicated they had "no known enemies," Calloway said.

Authorities have asked for the public's help with any information it might have, and ask potential witnesses to make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers at 735-2255.

Anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest could be entitled to $5,000 total of reward money -- $1,000 provided by Crime Stoppers, and an additional $4,000 donated by the Patel family.

Rupel Patel, who asked that the newspaper publish as little information about her as possible, including her home state, said she is just as surprised as police have been.

Both her aunt and uncle were very "kind, helpful people," their niece said. They had come to stay with her for a few days at an August wedding, when another uncle exchanged vows, Mrs. Patel said.

Bhavanaben is Rupel Patel's mother's younger sister. Rupel helped the slain couple's son and daughter learn English years ago after they had immigrated from India, she said.

In turn, during the August visit, Bhavanaben Patel helped Rupel's 10-year-old daughter learn the ropes of microwave cooking, Rupel Patel said.

Suryakant Patel, the male murder victim, was once a farmer in India, where he raised tobacco.

Then, in 2004, Suryakant and Bhavanaben decided to move to the United States, where her aunt's brother, Santvas, had lived since 1981.

The couple's son, Vinal, working abroad as a manager in a steel company, came home from Tanzania when he heard the news of his parents' death.

Vinal Patel said his father was an avid cyclist, riding his bicycle often.

His last in-person visit with his parents also was in August at the time of his uncle's marriage, he said.

"I was really shocked, because when we left here in August, and were together, we were happy, and everything seemed to be fine," Vinal Patel said.

"They were both very healthy, they did not have any kinds of problems, so it was really a shock for us," the slain couple's son said.

Rupel Patel said she talked with her aunt and uncle just days before their deaths, in a conference call on Saturday, Dec. 12.

On the morning of Dec. 14, less than two full days later, the manager of the hotel called Mrs. Patel to tell her about the murders.

"On Saturday, at noontime, we all talked together on a conference call," Rupel Patel said. "And on Monday, we got the news."

Vinal Patel said everyone he talked to while in Goldsboro wondered what would lead someone to shoot his parents, whom he described as peace-loving and religious.

"That's what people are wondering, how the people can do something like this to such good people," Vinal Patel said.

Anyone with information relating to the murders at America's Best Value Inn on Dec. 13 or 14 is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 735-2255.

Tips that lead to an arrest could entitle the anonymous caller to a $5,000 reward.

Calloway said police will not cease to investigate the case.

"We're still working it every day," he said. "We haven't stopped, and we will not stop."