Missing liquor store owner’s remains found in Mississippi

Sanjay "Sam" Patel
Sanjay “Sam” Patel

On Monday officials positively identified the bagged human remains found in Panola County as those of Sanjay Patel. The liquor store owner went missing from his business on Oct. 3 and was last seen with Marcus Perry.

Perry is the man found dead of a gunshot wound in his Bartlett home on Oct. 11. Evidence found on his cell phone and in his home led officers to believe that Patel was also dead.

Panola County Medical Examiner Gracie Gulledge positively identified Patel’s remains, which were found off Mississippi State Road 35.

The Bartlett Police Department provided a brief time line of the investigation:

  • Oct. 3, 2016: The Memphis Police Department took a missing person report on Patel and noted that he was last seen with Perry.
  • Oct. 11, 2016: BPD received a call about an apparent suicide at 9005 Pembroke Ellis Drive. Perry’s brother found his body face down, holding a handgun to his head. Officers obtained search warrants for the victim’s home and phone and found evidence that Patel was dead. Cell phone records and “pings” from Perry’s phone led investigators to the area of Panola County, Miss. Perry had family ties to that area, and his cellphone pinged in that location numerous times after Patel was reported missing.
  • Oct. 19-21, 2016: Bartlett detectives and deputies from the Panola County Sheriff’s Department searched within a five-mile radius of that spot in Panola County, but they didn’t find anything of value.
  • November 2016-January 2017: Bartlett detectives continued the investigation and followed up on leads into Perry’s life and Patel’s disappearance to no avail.
  • Feb. 25, 2017: BPD learned that a farmer had found a large Christmas tree bag on his land, which was off Mississippi 35, about three to four miles down Benson Road. This site was within two miles of the original search that was based on Perry’s cell phone information. The farmer said he’d noticed the bag flapping in the wind since January but didn’t go to look immediately. The Panola County Medical Examiner received the bag and its contents for identification.
  • Feb. 27, 2017: Gulledge received a sample of Patel’s DNA for comparison to the remains.
  • March 3, 2017: BPD detectives and Gulledge returned to the farmer’s property with a cadaver dog to aid in searching the large area, heavily covered by pine needles. The search turned up other evidence that the coroner collected.
  • March 13, 2017: Gulledge contacted BPD with the news that the remains were Patel’s.