HOUSTON -- One day after Jessica Tata s bond reduction request was denied, a vigil was held in southwest Houston to remember the victims who died in a fire at the day care she operator.
The event, held in the 400 block of Eldridge Parkway, was organized by a group of people who say justice needs to be served.
Balloons were released in the air for Elias Castillo, Shomari Dickerson, Kendyll Stradford and Elizabeth Kajoh.
Authorities believe the 23-year-old left all seven children in her care alone while she went shopping. The fire was ignited by a stove-top burner that was left on.
Prosecutor Steve Baldassano portrayed Tata as a deceptive person who lied to investigators about being in shock after the fire and kept authorities at bay until she was able to flee the country to Nigeria just before charges were filed against her.
She fled to Nigeria two days after the fire and became an international fugitive for nearly a month. Her bonds were set after her capture. Tata, who was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship, was returned to the U.S. on March 21.
Firefighter Dorian Green testified that after the fire he tried to interview Tata after she was hospitalized for shock. Green, who is also an emergency medical technician, said he didn t believe she was in shock and was being deceptive.
In a recording of an interview Green did with Tata in the emergency room of the hospital she was taken to after the fire, Tata could be heard saying repeatedly, I don t know, My heart is racing and Why am I here?
During the hearing, Tata s brother, Ronald, testified that after he and his sister met with an attorney the day following the fire, he became worried about her criminal liability.
He said that after the meeting with the attorney, Jessica Tata decided to go to Nigeria, even though their mother said it was a bad idea and it will look really, really bad.
He said that he and his sister returned on Friday, the day after the fire, to the home day care to retrieve her U.S. and Nigerian passports and that at midnight he drove his sister to Dallas and
loaned her $800 to help her buy a plane ticket to Nigeria. On Saturday morning, Jessica Tata flew to Atlanta and then to Lagos, Nigeria. Authorities charged Jessica Tata on Sunday.
An HPD officer testified that Tata s father first denied knowing where she was, then admitted she was in Nigeria.
Interpol tracked Tata to a friend s house in the country. She was kept in a hotel until her extradition. Investigators said Tata had a ticket back to the U.S. for March 18.
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.