It was the empty all-night doughnut shop that seemed suspicious.
Alerted by a customer who noticed the absence shortly before 11 p.m., Anne Arundel County officers went to check on the Dunkin Donuts on Arundel Mills Boulevard in Hanover. They quickly found Palak Bhadreskumar Patel, 21, lying dead in the kitchen.
Police said evidence inside the shop led them to believe Patel's husband, Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, 24, of Hanover, beat her to death.
An arrest warrant has been obtained for Patel, who has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, assault and other charges. Officers were searching for him Monday, and warned the public that he is dangerous.
Justin Mulcahy, police spokesman, urged anyone with information about Patel's location to call investigators.
"Don't harbor him, don't assist him in any way, shape or form," Mulcahy said.
Hours after the discovery of the woman's body, a police helicopter still circled the area.
Located just across the road from Arundel Mills mall, the doughnut shop is in a busy commercial corridor that increasingly operates around the clock to serve customers and staff at Maryland Live, a 24-hour casino next to the mall.
Crime scene tape blocked off the entrance to the shop Monday morning, and customers who came looking for coffee and doughnuts were shocked.
"Oh my goodness," said Idrisa Wurie, a cab driver who gets iced coffee from the Dunkin Donuts every morning. "I am shocked because they are very nice people."
Others learned after seeing Patel's face on the news and in social media as police continued their search through the day.
Jackie White, 48, of Hanover was a regular at the shop until a few weeks ago. She said Patel made her feel uncomfortable with a cold demeanor and "rude attitude."
"It didn't feel good when I had to interact with him," White said. "I didn't want to give that guy my money."
Police said Patel sustained severe injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel. They believe Patel struck his wife multiple times with an object, killing her, then fled.
The Patels were both employees of the Dunkin Donuts franchise. Mulcahy said the couple had at least one prior contact with police for a domestic incident in the past year.
A handful of people could be seen moving around inside the Dunkin Donuts. Occasionally one of those inside would peek out a window.
A Dunkin Donuts spokesman said the owner is cooperating with police.
"All of us at Dunkin' Brands are saddened to learn of the death of crew member Palak Bhadreskumar Patel, and our thoughts go out to her family and friends," the company said in a statement.
Anyone with information can contact homicide detective Kelly Harding at 410-222-4743. To remain anonymous, contact the Anne Arundel County Police Tip Line 410-222-4700 or Metro Crime Stoppers.
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Staff Writer Cindy Huang contributed to this story.