Third Accused Convicted in Virginia Store Owner’s 2016 Murder

Thomas L. Jennings III received a sentence of almost 13 years for the murder of Harshad Patel in 2016.


The third and last defendant in the murder of Harshad Patel, an Indian American store owner in Virginia in 2016, pleaded guilty on Feb.8. Thomas L. Jennings III was convicted for second-degree murder and received a sentence of almost 13 years.

Chesterfield County Circuit Judge David E. Johnson convicted Jennings to second-degree murder, amended from first-degree charges. The judge convicted Jennings for 40 years with 27 years and one month suspended, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The convict had cooperated with the police; he voluntarily surrendered himself two days after the murder on Jan. 11, 2016. He also identified his accomplices and agreed to testify against them.

Johnson said that he trusted the judgment of the prosecution in forming the plea deal but also noted the senseless killing of Patel.

Patel’s wife Sarla was “driven from this country” as a result of her husband’s murder, said the judge. It is believed that she returned to India with her two children. She was last present in court when the shooter Trayvon M. Wilhite was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison in November 2016 for Patel’s death. Since then, authorities have been unable to get in touch with her. She sold the store, called Marketplace, which was located at #21 at 6811 Walmsley Blvd., soon after Patel’s death.

Sarla was going to pick her husband from the store on the night of the killing and found heavy police presence when she arrived. She was told that he had been shot and he died at the hospital later.

The three defendants were seen going inside the store in the CCTV camera footage. Jennings entered first, followed by Wilhite, who said he was high on acid and doesn’t remember what happened. Wilhite fired a single shot of the .25 calibre at Patel, who was hiding behind the counter. A customer found Patel and called the police.

Defense attorney Richard Gates told the court that Jennings intended to stop his friends from doing it. Jennings “has a lot of regret, and the remorse will live with him the rest of his life,” Gates said.

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