LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — A 32-year-old woman believed to be suffering from postpartum depression and accused of killing her 1-year-old son was apprehended at the Tampa International Airport on Friday, authorities said.
Isham Patel died from blunt force trauma at the hands of his mother, Neha Patel, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Friday. The family lived in Lakeland, about a half-hour from Tampa.
“We need to find Neha,” Judd said during a news conference. “We’ve got to protect her from herself. We have a moral obligation to find her and to try to save her life.”
Friday afternoon, workers at the parking garage at the airport spotted Patel’s minivan. Airport police officers took her into custody; she is being interviewed by Polk detectives and will be booked into the Hillsborough County Jail.
Patel’s husband, Rasesh Patel, told authorities that his wife and son went missing Thursday while he was at work. At one point, Patel’s credit card was traced to a gas station in Ocala.
Authorities say Neha Patel came to her Lakeland home Friday morning with the baby wrapped in a blanket and told her husband that she had killed him.
Judd said the boy had been born four months premature. He said Patel had threatened to harm herself before and was suffering from postpartum depression — but wasn’t taking her medicine.
Neha Patel told her husband she was also going to kill herself and left their home.
“I will be dead by tomorrow,” she told her husband.
She last used her credit card at 5:33 a.m. in Tampa but hasn’t been traced since. Detectives believe she is driving a blue Toyota minivan with the Florida tag A10 0NJ.
Judd said Patel has been acting erratically all week. She abruptly quit her job as a CVS pharmacist on Feb. 12, and her husband told officers that she spoke of jumping off a bridge or building. She also mentioned that she would like to die in the Smoky Mountains, Judd added.
The sheriff said that Patel will get the help she needs, then be charged in the death of her son.
“There’s not a momma in Polk County who wouldn’t have taken this child,” he said.
Officials say Patel is being interviewed by detectives and will be booked into the Hillsborough County Jail later Friday.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.