Tata trial testimony focuses on stove blamed for deadly fire


An electrical engineer spent several hours on Thursday and Friday testifying in great detail about the stove where the fire allegedly started.

Fifteen minutes from the time the stove is turned on until flames appear. Prosecutors showed time lapse video on Friday, claiming it accurately represents what happened in February 2011 when Jessica Tata's home day care burned down with seven kids inside.

Four children died and three were injured in the fire. Tata is accused of leaving them in the day care unsupervised.

Prosecutors gave us video of the inside of the day care taken just hours after the smoke cleared. Heavy damage is clearly visible, the worst of which is in the kitchen.

Electrical engineer David Reiter testified, "The stove was active and operational at the time the fire occurred."

Reiter testified the stove was on its highest setting. He said he could tell by the control panel.

But when prodded by the defense, the engineer admitted, "The knob was burned away. The plastic was burned away."

Defense attorneys implied the stove may have malfunctioned.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy said, "The stove is the key to this whole case."

Androphy says the law sees a hot stove as a weapon. He believes that if jurors believe Tata left it on, she will be found guilty of felony murder.

"There has to be a twofold process, a two-step process, to get to felony murder," Androphy explained. "You have to leave the kids there, behave recklessly, and you have to leave something around that could cause the death and does cause the death of the children."

Tata's landlord took the stand Friday afternoon and testified that she was not allowed to run a home day care inside that house.

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