A day care fire sentence was delivered by jurors today in the Jessica Tata case in Texas, and the child care provider has received a term of 80 years in prison for actions that led to the deaths of four children in Houston.
The day care fire sentence came after eight hours of deliberation, a conclusion that is the only closure families of the dead children will likely receive after their heartbreaking loss. Tata, 24, was convicted of felony murder following the February 2011 incident that led to the deaths of Elias Castillo, 16 months, Shomari Dickerson, 3, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, and Kendyll Stradford, 20 months.
Tata’s day care fire sentence was handed down after her conviction in Castillo’s death, and prosecutors described a crime of negligence that horrified working parents everywhere. The child care provider was supposed to be watching seven children when the incident occurred after she put a pan of grease on a stove and went shopping, leaving all seven children alone in a home that would soon be engulfed in deadly flames.
Brian Wice, a legal analyst for local news source KPRC, said that the day care fire sentence may sound lenient considering the horrible reach of Tata’s actions, but the practical implications mean she is unlikely to ever walk free. He explains:
“Merely because you become eligible for parole doesn’t mean you will ever see the free world again. Because of that deadly weapon finding, because of the determination that fire was in fact a deadly weapon, Ms. Tata will serve 30 calendar years, day for day, before she even takes a peek at parole. She’ll be 54 before she even becomes eligible.”
But Wice thinks the day care fire sentence will, at the very least, be a life sentence in essence for Tata when all is said and done:
“Given the fact that this case, and the monumental tragedy that this case presents, I’d be surprised if she ever really saw the outside of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”
After the day care fire sentence was handed down, families of the victims expressed a desire for the case to spur changes to background check laws — after her arrest, it was revealed Tata had a previous juvenile conviction for arson.