HOUSTON—It is the most compelling piece of evidence to date in the trial: home video of carefree children taken by Jessica Tata at her day care center just hours before the fire that killed four of them and injured three.
It’s chilling to here her call the names of those who wouldn’t survive.
“Well, my heart goes out to the mothers,” said defense attorney Mike DeGeurin.
It is a recurring theme in Tata’s felony murder trial. Day two began with more testimony from parents, including April Jackson, whose son was severely burned, and Fred Lwanga whose son escaped with minor injuries.
Both testified that when they first met Tata, she seemed to genuinely care about the children, an impression that has long since faded for them.
The prosecution also introduced evidence that suggests Tata left the children alone, not just when the fire broke out, but earlier in the day when she took a trip to Walmart. A former loss prevention officer at the store testified she spent several minutes shopping for food and didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave.
“Just by her demeanor, especially when she was at the register,” said Brian Smith. “She was actually asking about some other types of shopping bags that we had, and she was doing price checks. She wasn’t in a hurry at all.”
The prosecution also plans to show surveillance video that shows Tata shopping at a Target store around the time the fire broke out.
Tata’s trial is expected to take a month. If she is convicted, she faces anywhere from five years to life in prison.