HOUSTON -- An attorney for a woman charged with murder after a fire at her Houston home day care killed four children asked a judge on Thursday to reduce her $1.1 million bond, which he called illegally excessive.
Jessica Tata is currently jailed on bonds for nine charges related to the Feb. 24 fire that also injured three children. The bonds, which together total $1.1 million, were set following her capture after she fled to Nigeria after the fire and became an international fugitive for nearly a month.
In a motion filed during a court hearing Thursday, Tata s attorney, Mike DeGeurin, asked that her bond be reduced to $50,000.
The deaths and injuries resulting from the fire were unintended, DeGeurin said in his motion. Bail in the present amount ... is excessive and amount to no bail.
DeGeurin argued in his motion that a standard bond in Harris County for intentional murder is $50,000 and that felony murder, which she is charged with, relates to where the loss of life was not intended.
State district Judge Marc Brown set a May 27 hearing on the motion. Tata wasn t in court Thursday.
Authorities believe Tata, 23, left all seven children she was caring for alone while she went shopping, and the fire was ignited by a stove-top burner that was left on.
As fire department investigators worked to convince prosecutors to file charges, Tata boarded a plane two days after the blaze and fled to Nigeria. Tata, who was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship, was returned to the U.S. on March 21.
In addition to four murder charges, Tata is also charged with two charges of reckless injury to a child and three charges of abandoning a child.
Prosecutor Steve Baldassano and DeGeurin declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.
In his motion, DeGeurin said Tata does not have the financial ability to pay her current bail. He also described her as coming from a good family.
Her mother is a licensed vocational nurse, her brother is a real estate agent, one sister is a doctor and the other a registered nurse. Her father, educated as (an) engineer, works in real estate in Nigeria, DeGeurin said.
The mother of one of the four children who died in the fire as well as the mother of one of the injured children have sued Tata, accusing her of negligence.