Jessica Tata provided childcare out of her home in Houston, Texas. Last year, while she was reportedly in charge of seven children under the age of three, she allegedly put a pot of oil to boil on the stove, left the children alone, and went shopping. Prosecutors say the pot of boiling oil spilled over, starting a fire.
Four children died in the fire while three were badly injured.
Tata, 22, was shopping at nearby Target while the young children were alone in the burning house. Now it is up to a jury to decide whether or not Tata should spend her life in prison.
Tata has reportedly stated that she never meant for the children to die, but a Target employee testified that Tata mentioned she had left something burning on the stove.
Both sides of the case rested Thursday afternoon in the murder trial after a jury sat through nearly two weeks of testimony. The courtroom was reportedly packed with victims’ family members as witnessed relived the terrifying events that took place last year.
Prosecutors say that the seven children were “defenseless as smoke and flames spread throughout the house” while Tata took her time out shopping. Defense attorney Mike DeGuerin argued that the stove had problems and that Tata could not have foreseen “such a terrible accident.”
The Stir notes that whether or not the fire was intentional doesn’t really matter: “Does it really matter if this woman who was charged with taking care of seven kids knew about the fire risk? We have a babysitter who is accused of abandoning seven kids, one as young as 16 months old. As a result, four children died. Case closed.”
The defense brought in an engineer who testified that the fire “could have been” started by a faulty refrigerator. Prosecutor Steve Baldassano bought in experts stating the fire was caused by the pot of burning oil. Whatever happened to start the blaze that ended the lives of four small children, prosecutors maintain that the trial is about “betrayal and trust,” not about fire logistics. Tata was a trusted caregiver and her negligence allegedly caused the death and injury of seven innocent children.
Elias Castillo, Elizabeth Kojah, Kendyll Stradford, and Shomari Dickerson died in the blaze.
Closing arguments begin Monday with Tata facing up to life in prison if convicted.
Readers: Do you think Tata should get life in prison for the death and injury of these children?