HOUSTON (CBS Houston) On Tuesday, a jury sentenced convicted murderer Jessica Tata to 80 years in prison; she was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Tata, A day care owner was accused of leaving toddlers unsupervised in February of 2011. As a result of Tata leaving the children unsupervised, a fire ignited at her day care and killed four children, while injuring others.
Twenty-four-year-old Tata was convicted in connection with the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo last week. Elias was one of seven children whom Tata left unsupervised at her home while she went to a nearby Target store to shop. Her shopping activities were captured on surveillance cameras.
The jury spent all of Monday and just a few hours on Tuesday deliberating before returning the sentence. Tata displayed no emotion while her sentence was read; however, tears were shed by the victims’ families as well as Tata’s mother in the courtroom.
In the wake of the fire, Tata fled to Nigeria, where she was born. She was then captured after about a month, returned to the U.S. in March 2011 and has remained jailed since. Tata was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship.
During testimony in the punishment phase of the trial, testimony revealed that Tata set fires in a Houston-area high school. Prosecutors in the case argued that Tata was an irresponsible day care owner who left the children she was caring for alone several times. They also stated that her facilities were unkempt and unsafe for children. Tata’s defense team argued that it was the fault of equipment in the facility that was to blame for the fire, not Tata.
Tata still faces three more counts of felony murder in relation to the other children who died in the fire back in 2011. She also faces three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child in relation to three who were hurt.