You might remember Jessica Tata as the Nigerian-American lady, who accidentally set a day care on fire in Texas when she left oil on top of a cooking stove.The incident cost the life of a 16-month old baby, Elias Castilo, and injured 3 others.
What made the case more interesting was that she fled to Nigeria immediately after the incident. She was extradited, tried, convicted and has been sentenced to 80 years for the felony murder of the 16-month baby in Texas.
Jessica Tata, 24, has also been ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.0.
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.
Tata’s family and friends told jurors she was a good person who loved kids. They asked the jury for mercy and Tata’s attorneys argued she never intended to hurt the children, who ranged in age from 16 months to 3 years old, and that she tried to save them. But prosecutors did not need to show she intended to harm the children, only that the deaths occurred because she put them in danger by leaving them alone.
Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of felony murder if he or she committed an underlying felony and that action led to the death. Tata fled to Nigeria in the wake of the fire but was captured after about a month, returned to the U.S. in March 2011 and has remained jailed since. She was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship.
Neighbors testified that they heard the children crying during their unsuccessful attempts to rescue them from the blaze. Parents of the children who died or were injured told jurors they had trusted Tata, believing she was qualified.