Nigerian Gets 80 Years Imprisonment In The US


Houston jury has reached a decision on the sentencing phase of the trial
against Jessica Tata, a daycare owner whose home caught fire, killing and
injuring several children.
She will serve 80 years in prison
Tata was found guilty on November 13 of murdering
16-month-old Elias Castillo.
Tata, 24, left children in a home on Crest Park
near Waypark alone with a pan of grease heating on a stove while she went
shopping on Feb. 24, 2011. When she got home, the house was on fire. Elias,
Shomari Dickerson, 3, Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, and Kendyll Stradford, 20
months, all died in the fire. Three other children were hurt.

Jurors took eight hours to decide on punishment.
Tata will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

Closing arguments in the punishment phase were
held on Monday morning. Tata wiped away tears as her attorney, Mike DeGeurin,
said the fire and deaths were an accident. He said Tata made a mistake and
never intended for the children to be hurt because she loved them.
“She should have called for help or she
should have said to herself, ‘I’ll wait until they wake up, change their
diapers, I’ll load them up in the car and we’ll go to Target together,'”
DeGeurin said. “But she didn’t.”
DeGeurin said that Tata will pay forever, no
matter how long she spends in prison, for using bad judgment.
“She thought, ‘They’ll be fine. I’ll be back
in 20 to 30 minutes and they’ll be fine.’ That is where she was wrong and that
is where she’s going to live with that decision for the rest of her life. She
mourns for those children,” DeGeurin said.
Assistant District Attorney Connie Spence said there
was evidence that Tata left the children home alone in the past. She said the
children came second to Tata’s personal desires.
“If that was the first time she had ever left
those babies alone, she would be in a hurry,” Spence said. “She would
be panicked, thinking, ‘OK, I need to get home. I need to get home.’ She made
her life the priority, not those babies. She was going to do what she needed to
do and work around the babies.”
DeGeurin urged the jury to not let emotions be the
driving force in how many years they decide Tata should spend in prison.
“Guard against being whipped up into emotion
and doing something out of anger,” DeGeurin said.
“What we want is justice,” Spend said.
“Not vengeance.”
Prosecutors pushed for the maximum sentence.
“What’s a child’s life worth? How can you put
a number on a child’s life? They will never be back, and what could have been
will never be,” Spence said.
As attorney’s went over the evidence for the last
time in this trial, Elias’ and Shomari’s mothers held hands and wept.
Jurors heard from several witnesses during the
punishment phase, including Tata’s sister and the victim’s mother.
After the fire but before she was charged, Tata
went to Nigeria. She was arrested in that country in March 2011 and returned to
the United States. Tata was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship.
Tata’s sister, Jennifer, told jurors that her
sister was distraught after the fire.
Jennifer Tata said her sister went to Nigeria
after she was released from the hospital to talk with her father. Jennifer Tata
said her sister had no intention of not returning to the United States.
Elias’ mother also took the stand.
Keisha Brown chuckled as she described Elias as a
happy baby who seemed to always be smiling. Tears began to flow when she
recounted how she learned her son had been hurt in the fire at the day care.
Brown said she rushed to the hospital where Elias was being treated. She had
all the hope a mother could that he would pull through, but he died the next
“Can’t nobody say a single word and make you
feel better … because your heart is breaking,” Brown said.
As Brown testified, one of the jurors was seen
crying. Jessica Tata stared down at the table in front of her.


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