Woman Gets 80 Years for Daycare Fire That Killed 4

Jessica Tata sentenced in death of one child, still faces more charges

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Nov 20, 2012 1:18 PM CST

(Newser) – A Texas woman was sentenced to 80 years today for her felony murder conviction in the death of one of four children killed in a fire at her home day care in Houston. Jessica Tata, 24, was convicted last week in connection with the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo. Authorities say Elias was one of seven children whom Tata left unsupervised at her home while she went to a nearby Target store. Prosecutors say she left a pan of oil cooking atop a stovetop burner that ignited the February 2011 blaze. Three other children were seriously injured.

Along with the prison sentence, Tata was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. She still faces three more counts of felony murder in relation to the other children who died, and three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child in relation to three who were hurt. During the punishment phase of the trial, prosecutors argued Tata was an irresponsible day care owner who left the children she was caring for alone on multiple occasions and who ran an unclean facility. Surveillance video was presented during the trial that showed her shopping at Target just before the fire occurred. A former Target manager told jurors that Tata did not seem to be in a hurry after realizing she had left the stove top burner on while the kids were at the day care.

In this Nov. 13, 2012 file photo, home day care operator Jessica Tata is seen in Houston's Harris County Criminal Justice Center.   (Johnny Hanson)
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