Jessica Tata pleads not guilty to all charges in deadly day care fire

March 23, 2011 2:01:04 PM PDT
The woman accused in a deadly day care fire made her first court appearance this afternoon and plead not guilty to all charges against her.

There was extra security in the courtroom for daycare owner Jessica Tata's first court appearance. The victims' families in attendance were emotional as all 13 criminal charges against Tata were read aloud. Those charges are in connection to an at-home day care fire that killed four children and injured three others.

Tata is being held without bond in the Harris County Jail.

We'll have a full report today on Eyewitness News beginning at 4pm.

Tata hires attorney

Eyewitness News has learned she has hired well-known attorney Mike DeGeurin to represent her.

Tata was flown back in to Houston early yesterday morning wearing a bullet proof vest, authorities say for her own safety. The 22-year-old was arrested Saturday in Port Harcourt Nigeria. She fled to her homeland last month after a fire at her home daycare that killed four small children.

Authorities say Tata left a stove on and seven small children home alone when the fire started. Little Elias Castillo was one of the four children who died. His father plans to be in court today when Tata makes her first appearance and he is calling for a harsh penalty

"Me, I think she needs to get not more than life, you know what I'm saying? Death penalty, I think," said Elias' father, Maurice Castillo.

Castillo says he is still grieving his son's death.

Meanwhile, Tata faces four counts of manslaughter, six counts of reckless injury to a child, three counts of abandoning a child under 15 and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Aside from Elias, 20-month-old Kendyll Stradford, who started going to the day care two days before the fire, 3-year-old Shomari Dickerson and 19-month-old Elizabeth Kajoh also died after the fire.

We will be in the courtroom and will bring you the latest on Eyewitness News and abc13.com.


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