Firefighters describe scene of Jessica Tata's burning day care

October 30, 2012 8:31:00 PM PDT
More gripping testimony was heard in the Jessica Tata murder trial, the former day care worker accused in the deaths of four children who died in a fire at her home.

Four young children died and three were injured when a home day care burned down in February 2011. Prosecutors allege day care owner Jessica Tata had left the kids unsupervised and went shopping -- with the stove still on -- when the fire broke out.

The jury was dismissed late Tuesday afternoon, shortly after prosecutors played an audio recording of police interviewing Tata in the hospital immediately after the fire. She seemed unresponsive.

"What did you do today?" she is asked.

"I threw up," she said.

"I don't know. My heart is just racing. I don't even know what happened," she also says on the tape. "I don't remember anything. I don't want to be here. My heart is racing."

Earlier Tuesday, firefighters described to the jury the chaos that unfolded that day. The firefighters said they had very limited information when they rushed inside the house to save the kids.

One fire captain testified his initial reading on the house was 475 degrees. He said it was too hot to withstand, even with all of their fire gear.

Several of the firefighters tried to put out the fire, while three men rushed into the home. At first, they say couldn't find any of the children. Then, they entered a back bedroom.

Firefighter Luis Carmona remembered finding one baby still in a crib.

"I lifted the body up, cradled it, and bent down low," Carmona told the jury. "They said to keep looking because there might be two more children up there."

"There were three cribs and we had two children. Initially, I heard nine, but there was some conflicting information," firefighter John Robinson said.

There were seven children inside the day care, but Tata allegedly insisted there were nine.

On Tuesday, firefighters testified they broke their own safety protocol to go back into the home to search for those two children who didn't exist.

Senior Capt. David Swanson was the one who made the call.

"I've got a missing firefighter. I left a firefighter in the house to still search to find more kids and I was outside doing CPR on one of the kids," Swanson said.

Tata showed no emotion during testimony, but the mood in the courtroom was somber. The defense played up Tata's attempt to break a window to try to get into the house and get to those children, as evidenced by a cut to her hand that day.

"Well, it's a very difficult trial. It's very difficult for everybody involved," said defense attorney Mike DeGuerin.

The family of Elias Castillo, one of the fire victims, is sitting through Tata's murder trial. Although it's agonizing for them to relive the last moments of his life, they say they will be present every day.

Stay with Eyewitness News for the latest on the Jessica Tata trial.


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