Prosecution rests case in Jessica Tata murder trial over deadly day care fire

November 5, 2012 5:02:23 PM PST
The state has rested its case against Jessica Tata. She's the woman charged with murder in the deaths of four children who died in a fire at her home day care. Tata was running errands at the time of the fire.

Testimony Monday morning focused on the autopsy of little Elias Castillo. At just 16 months old, he was the youngest victim, and Tata is currently on trial just for his murder.

First to take the stand was forensic pathologist Dr. Merrill Hines, who testified about the cause of Elias's death. He said evidence showed the 16-month-old died of complications from smoke inhalation -- those included cyanide poisoning and the inhalation of soot.

Three other children, all of them under the age of four, were killed, and three others were injured when Tata's home caught fire. Tata had left the seven children unattended at her home day care to go shopping. Arson investigators say a pot of oil that Tata allegedly left on the stove started the fire.

It's been an emotional two weeks so far in the trial. The defense will present their case next, but no one knows yet what that will be.

Prosecutors wrapped up their portion of the Tata trial with Child Protective Services trainer Shantae Gaskill on the stand. She testified that Tata attended the required training classes before she was certified to run a home day care, but that she would often take breaks during the class.

In the audience, James Coteres paid close attention to the testimony.

He said, "We just came to see the outcome of the case since we were the ones that made it be here in the first place."

Coteres and Doris Au both served on the grand jury that indicted Tata for felony murder. They were among the many who have watched prosecutors methodically lay out their case.

"It's a difficult thing to do, to represent the county and make decisions for the county," Au said. "Once that decision was made, I feel like we have the obligation to see it through."

Over the past two weeks, jurors have heard testimony from parents whose children died in that home day care in 2011, watched heart-wrenching home video and heard hours of tedious technical evidence. Beginning Tuesday it will be the defense's turn to present their case.

"I need to just see it until the end," Au said.

Testimony resumes Tuesday morning. If she is convicted in this murder case, Tata could receive life in prison. She is charged in a four count murder indictment, one count for each child who died.


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