HOUSTON— Both sides restedThursday afternoon in the murder trial of Jessica Tata. She is the home day care worker who left seven small children alone while she went shopping last year.
Tata returned to find the west Houston house on fire. Four children died and three others were badly injured.
A jury of seven women and five men sat through nearly two weeks of testimony as a courtroom packed with the young victims’ family members relived that horrific day.
Prosecutors said Tata left a pot of oil burning on the stove, which ignited while she took her time shopping at a nearby Target.
The children were defenseless as smoke and flames spread throughout the house.
Elias Castillo, Elizabeth Kojah, Kendyll Stradford and Shomari Dickerson died in the blaze. The other three children were severely injured.
Defense attorney Mike DeGuerin argued that the stove had problems sometimes when being shut off and Tata could not foresee that such a terrible accident could happen. He brought in an engineering expert on Wednesday who testified that the fire could have been started by a faulty refrigerator.
But Prosecutor Steve Baldassano and his expert said the fire was started by the pot of burning oil. In addition, a Target store manager testified earlier that she actually told him she left something burning on the stove when he asked her to fill out a store survey.
Whatever the cause, prosecutors maintained at the beginning that the trial is about betrayal and trust. Tata, who was a trusted caregiver, disregarded the children’s safety when she left them alone, they said.
Closing arguments begin Monday.
Tata faces up to life in prison if convicted.