A Mother’s Mysterious Death

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I believe in numbers, probabilities and odds. How often do mothers of two boys go for a walk, at night, down onto a freeway and wind up dead? How often do drivers who might have struck a pedestrian fail to stop and just go sailing merrily down the road? Answers to both: Hardly ever.

But these are the questions more than five months after the body of 47-year-old Roma Bhatia, a mortgage consultant, was found on a Saturday night just south of the Bollinger Canyon Road overpass off to the side of the northbound 680 freeway. The cause of death was listed as blunt force injuries from being struck by a vehicle. According to the California Highway Patrol, it’s still an active and ongoing investigation.

The mother of two teen-age boys had been a victim of domestic violence throughout her marriage, according to court records, and had been embroiled in a lengthy divorce and child custody fight. She had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but had moved back in with her family in the months before her death.

For a number of reasons I wrestled whether to even write something about this case. For starters, I had done some work on the case for the victim’s side of the family right after the death. I canvassed for possible witnesses and interviewed some people at the hair salon where she was last seen alive. I just asked that anyone who knew anything call the CHP. It’s not like the movies where I worked on the case around the clock. In the real world, you do what you can do within a budget.

A bigger stumbling block to writing about it was my fear of the subject matter attached to the story: Domestic violence. But the reason not to write about something –FEAR– is probably why we should confront and examine the subject. It seems like domestic violence wants to be whispered about and kept in the shadows, or as embattled San Francisco sheriff Ross Mirkarimi supposedly labeled it, a “private matter.” Domestic violence also happens in the suburbs.

Roma Bhatia was last seen, about three hours before her death, walking out of the Fantastic Sams hair salon, 11040 Bollinger Canyon Road, about 5:15 p.m. She had paid $87.85 out of a $100 bill for a tint, cut and moisturizer. Her body was found about 8:20 p.m. and her husband apparently called San Ramon police looking for her about two hours later. She was quiet at the salon but mentioned that she was going to spend Thanksgiving with her two sons, stylist Tina Tran told me. Her youngest son had apparently given her a ride to the shop.

A major question though is: Did she really walk the 2.7 miles at night from the salon down onto the freeway? Her sister and friends are unanimous that Roma was not a recreational walker and would never even pass up valet parking. In the days after her death I had asked the Safeway store near the beauty parlor to preserve any video they might have had from the parking lot, in case it might have shown her getting into a vehicle. I don’t know if the store had any such video or if they turned anything over to the CHP.

Another troubling aspect, to me anyway, is that the husband never seemed to be in the public eye after the incident asking the public for information to help in the case. We all grieve in different ways I suppose. The CHP lost valuable time on the case because the investigating officer was off for five days immediately after the case due to scheduled time-off.

So the real reason I bring up this case is to humanize the victim and to keep the case alive. All mothers are special. She must have been a strong person to raise a couple of boys and suffer in an abusive marriage.



Spencer Elrod Services

Spencer Elrod Services



  1. I know that her husband, Sandeep, had something to do with her death. I have no proof, but I hate to see him get away with it. He probably hired someone to beat her to death and then dump her body, but how do we prove it. I was very close to Roma and I do not believe she was diagnosed bipolar. I believe that diagnosis was made up by the husband, so that police would just consider her crazy. I believe she was crazy for staying with him, but otherwise as sane as any intelligent abused woman. He constantly manipulated her in every way. I understand he made her put everything she owned in his name before her death. He had many reasons for getting rid of her. I have seen him in action. Someone must know something. How much did he pay the person to beat her up? To kill her? I hope her sons somehow find out the truth, but they have been lied to so much in their lives by their father, they may not know where to look.

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