Following a morning of deliberations, a jury has sentenced Jessica Tata, the owner of a home-based child care center who was convicted of murder in the house fire that ended with the death of four children.
The jury sentenced Tata to 80 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. That same jury found Tata guilty on Nov. 13 in the four felony counts of murder.
Though four children died, the trial focused on the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo.
Firefighters pulled nine children from Tata’s burning home on Crestpark Drive near Waypark Drive on Feb. 24, 2011.
Tata had operated Jackie’s Day Care inside the Southwest Houston house since she registered the home and obtained a license for the facility in March 2010.
The following children died in the fire:
— Shomari Dickerson, 3 years old
— Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months old
— Kendyll Stradford, 20 months old
— Elias Castillo, 16 months old (who died two days after the fire)
Witnesses told Houston Police they saw Tata drive her vehicle onto the driveway of her home and walk into the house. She then ran out of the home, screaming about the fire.
On Feb. 28, 2011, FOX 26 News reported that the US Marshals Service was searching for Tata in Nigeria after she boarded an Atlanta flight for the African nation. They added her to their 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list on March 4, 2011.
Interpol and US Department of State Diplomatic Security agents captured Tata in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on March 19, 2011. She was booked into Harris County Jail three days later on four murder charges.
Jury selection for the murder trial began on Oct. 23, 2012. Opening statements began the next day. The jury began deliberating the case on Nov. 12 and the punishment phase began on Nov. 13.